The Rev. Claude Porter, of Maywood’s Proviso Missionary Baptist Church, says he didn’t hesitate when he became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Three of his nephews had contracted the virus. One of them is still learning how to walk again.
“I knew there was a need to take the shot,” the 84-year-old said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is my shot to continue to serve God’s mission to take care of his people.”
Now, Porter is among a small group of people sharing their stories as part of a new campaign in Cook County to address vaccine hesitancy and to dispel misinformation about the vaccines.
“Every day I talk with residents across Cook County about the pandemic and now about the vaccine. While many people are overjoyed to get vaccinated, I also hear reluctance, fear and misinformation,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Monday morning. “The ‘My Shot’ campaign speaks directly to these individuals who need to hear from their neighbors about the safety of these shots and the importance of making the choice to get vaccinated.”
Porter said he agreed to participate in the “My Shot” campaign so he could be an example to others and show them the vaccine is safe.
“There’s nothing wrong with squirming a little bit when the needle hits you. I did the same thing, but I stand here today I feel good right now,” he said. “I want you to feel good because you took the shot. You made a difference in your community and your lives.”
In addition to residents’ stories, the campaign includes vaccine FAQs, including how the vaccine was created and how to schedule an appointment, as well as resources from local, state and federal health agencies and tool kits with graphics and posts for community groups to share.
Expect to see information in English and Spanish popping up on social media, the radio, billboards and bus shelters. “We hope to reach those communities that have seen more than their share of suffering throughout the pandemic,” Preckwinkle said.
The campaign was informed by a survey of 1,100 Cook County residents from various backgrounds and ZIP codes, according to Cook County Health CEO Isreal Rocha. The survey, conducted by Market Probe, found that 32% of all Cook County adults are hesitant about the vaccine, with 46% of African Americans and 35% of Latinos saying they probably will not, definitely will not or are not sure if they will get vaccinated.
“While disheartening, this discrepancy – often called vaccine trust gap – is not surprising. We know that the history of mistreatment and racism in health care and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic has contributed to mistrust in our communities of color,” Rocha said, adding officials need to work on regaining that trust.
Adults ages 18-34 were the most hesitant age group, according to officials, who are urging residents to get vaccinated when they are eligible.
“The science is there. You need to make your decisions. Trust begins by having an open dialogue, open information and resources available to everyone so they can make that decision for their family,” Rocha said. “The ‘My Shot’ campaign is a powerful message because it uses a message of individuals who have decided to take that shot, why they made that decision and share their story.”
The $1.2 million campaign will be reimbursed by the federal government, according to officials.
For more information about the campaign and to hear residents’ story, visit the campaign’s website.