The Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and older last month. Within days, the number of vaccine doses administered in Illinois spiked from about 26,000 on Aug. 25, to more than 122,000 on Aug. 26, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.
But some folks are still hesitant to roll up their sleeves.
Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, vice president of UI Health Medical Staff, says she hears some of these concerns firsthand.
“The first thing that people talk about is that the vaccine is too new and that it needs more time to be tested in spite of it making it through all three phases of FDA trials,” Figueroa said. “But it’s actually been vigorously tested. It’s been tested more than any other vaccine, upward of 10 times more than common vaccines.”
About 80% of UI Health’s patients are Latino or African American. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, about 14.2% of the people getting vaccinated are Hispanic or Latino. The Census Bureau shows that 17.5% of the population is estimated to be Hispanic.
“People that come to the doctor are more likely to be willing to share the discussion and the decision with me,” Figueroa said. “There is a lag in Illinois and I do see that in the clinic. However, and fortunately, I can only count on one hand the amount of Latinx folks that I’ve had in clinic that haven’t taken the vaccine.”
Claudia Reyes is a former nurse who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Reyes has been hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of the effects it may have. But she’s also had trouble getting to a site.
“I was more concerned with how it would affect me having ALS and with breathing altogether since (COVID) is a respiratory thing. Since I am disabled, I don’t really go out a lot,” Reyes said. “Now at this point, it’s more of me just being taken to get it.”
Reyes believes accessibility is a barrier for those who have challenges getting around.
“Some people do have family that are able to take them, but a lot have family that works so it’s a difficult situation,” Reyes said.
She believes a lack of useful information has kept people from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. And she says that it needs to come from the people they trust.
“A lot of it is misinformation that they get,” Reyes said. “A lot of times doctors just tell you, ‘You should get the vaccine,’ but they don’t give you a reason why. They don’t explain what the consequences are or that you might feel sick. If you’re going to get a better crowd to do things it’s going to stem from people they know, like the churches if they’re involved there.”