Black West Side officials held a virtual town hall Saturday to address concerns some people have about getting the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage residents to get vaccinated.
The aim of last weekend’s virtual event was to educate the public about COVID and dispel myths about the vaccine.
Dr. Bell Balark, who specializes in internal medicine, led an overview of the virus, highlighting how important it is for Blacks to get vaccinated as soon as they can.
Black people make up 15% of the state’s population but account for 42% of all COVID-related deaths; Chicago’s Black population makes up 30% of the city but 60% of COVID fatalities.
Bell Balark said these numbers can be attributed to a number of factors, including economic stability. She noted that Chicago’s Black residents are less likely to have equitable access to healthcare and are more likely to be essential workers, putting them at greater risk of contracting COVID.
“Our best weapon is to be educated and informed,” she said.
The doctor cited the historical and current mistreatment of Blacks by the medical and scientific community as a driving factor for residents’ reluctance to get the vaccine. But she stressed the vaccine is the best option for all.
Some of the facts shared at Saturday’s virtual session included: No portion of the real virus is used in any of the vaccines. And once someone is vaccinated, they should still wear a mask to limit the chances of transmitting the virus to others.
Tamara Mahal, who helps lead Chicago’s COVID-19 operation, also encouraged everyone to get the vaccine once they’re eligible.
The United Center will open as a mass vaccination site on March 10 with over 125,000 appointments prioritized for people 65 and older. It’s expected to be open seven days a week for eight weeks.