Community Organizations Want to Help Greater Englewood Get Vaccinated

Part of our ‘Chicago Tonight’ In Your Neighborhood series

This week, Chicago opened eligibility for coronavirus vaccines to all residents over the age of 16.

Roughly 50% of adults in Chicago have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to a press release from the city, but the most recent city data available shows disparities in some ZIP codes.

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The Greater Englewood Area, made up of Englewood and West Englewood — an area that has faced historic disinvestment — is one such area. 

In the 60621 ZIP code, which includes most of Englewood proper:

— 22.3% of residents have received their first vaccine dose

— 14.4% have completed the series

In the 60636 ZIP code, which includes most of West Englewood:

— 26.3% of the population has received the first dose

— 16.7% have completed the series

The city’s Protect Chicago Plus initiative is designed to help 15 of Chicago’s hardest-hit communities get vaccinated, including Englewood and West Englewood.

The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System has been working with the Protect Chicago Plus program at its Mile Square Health Center. On Friday, the center will close up its eight-week vaccination site where it vaccinated 4,000 residents.

Interactive map: More from our community reporting series

Dr. Janet Lin, an ER physician who has been coordinating UI Health’s efforts, said community-based organizations are key to getting Englewood residents signed up and vaccinated.

One Health Englewood is one such organization. Rodney Johnson, president of One Health Englewood, said friends and family leading by example have been key to getting residents vaccinated. 

“Having that association with family members saying, ‘Hey, I went and got it, you should go sign up too,’ I think that was the strongest point right there and actually it kept the vaccine in the community as well, because you had people who were working together,” Johnson said.

He said that while vaccinations may be lower in the Greater Englewood area, it’s not a problem specific to the community, rather it is something that is happening across the city and country.

“Most of the time if it’s accessible and it’s easy to get people will follow through,” Johnson said.

Another community organization working to help get residents vaccinated is iGrow Chicago, which is located in West Englewood. It’s an organization focused on health, wellness and education, with a variety of programs, including yoga meditation and a food distribution program started during the pandemic. Between March and December 2020, iGrow distributed 31,000 hot meals, he said.

iGrow Chicago has hosted two vaccine clinics on its campus so far and plans to host more so residents don’t have to travel outside of the neighborhood.

“It’s very hard, a lot of our residents here don’t have access to transportation like that,” iGrow Chief Operations Officer Ken Johnson said. “Things that they do and they need are here in the community where they live. We try to address that need on-site and be able to provide it to them as close to and local as possible to make it accessible to them.”

Lin of UI Health said that there are a variety of factors that impact whether residents get vaccinated. Historical distrust in medical institutions is part of it, particularly among Black residents. However, awareness about where to get a vaccine and the ability to get to there — and time off work to do so, is also a part of it, she said.

The Resident Association of Greater Englewood or R.A.G.E., also shared vaccine clinic information with residents, said Asiaha Butler, co-founder and president. However, because not all members feel the same way about the vaccine, RAGE hasn’t taken a stance on it.

“It’s been difficult even for R.A.G.E., we have a mix of residents and so everybody has different feelings about the vaccinations,” Butler said. “Some people are gung-ho ready to get it and some people are hesitant.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Asiaha Butler.

While the vaccinations in Englewood are lagging behind other communities, Deputy Mayor of Education and Human Services Sybil Madison says vaccinations have improved by 20% since Feb. 6, though there is still a way to go.

“Englewood may look like it’s way behind, but we’ve made a lot of progress with Englewood,” Madison said. “We’ve come pretty far from where we started.”

She said one-on-one conversations are a key part of building trust.

“We also know that we have to make it super convenient for people to get vaccinated,” Madison said.

Madison said the city is looking into walk up appointments and bringing a vaccine bus to Englewood in order to reach more people.

“We are excited to try new strategies to make the vaccine available in the moment someone decides to get vaccinated,” Madison said.

However, Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor said not enough is being done to get residents vaccinated and that the city should use colleges, like Kennedy King College, and churches as vaccination sites. Taylor represents the 20th Ward, which includes parts of Englewood.

“It needs to be so in your face that you take the time to say, ‘I’m just gonna go get tested or I’m gonna go get the vaccination,’” Taylor said.

She would like to see more of the community involved in getting each other vaccinated.

“We gotta go to the old school door-knocking and use those relationships,” Taylor said. “It’s having those conversations with family about it’s not enough for one person to get vaccinated or just to wear your mask.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Ald. Jeanette Taylor.

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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