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As Chicago Pivots To Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy, Faith Leaders Pitch In – trendat

CHICAGO (CBS) — In a pandemic milestone in Chicago, coronavirus vaccine supply is now meeting demand.

“As of now, we have enough vaccine,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said this past Thursday.

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But now, there is another issue.

“Demand has really softened – leveled off,” Arwady said.

Within the last week, there has been a marked shift in tone across the board when it comes to vaccine appointments – and not just in the city.

Will County practically pleaded with people online to head to their vaccination clinic by Saturday so they wouldn’t have to throw out doses.

(Credit: Will County Health Department)

Plenty of open spots were available online the next day too.

Will County Vaccine Appointments

(Credit: Illinois Department of Public Health)

Dressed in his Sunday best, the Rev. Marvin Hunter gestured at the lack of lines at the United Center vaccination site as he stood in front of it.

“I’m seeing people have taken an absolute reverse in terms of their willingness to be vaccinated because of the mishap with the Johnson & Johnson product,” Hunter said.

He said he is still fielding calls from members of his church with questions.

“They were in absolute panic, afraid,” Hunter said. “We had worked so hard to get peoples’ confidence up in taking the vaccine.”

It was two steps forward, three steps back.

In between leading worship, Hunter has spent weeks leading conversations on vaccinations with his congregation.

“So I’m saying to you all, go and find a place to get this shot taken,” he told his congregants on Facebook on March 19.

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Hunter told Parra: “There was always a bit of hesitancy among the African American community. This didn’t help.”

Recent studies show current vaccine hesitancy spans across racial groups, with white conservative evangelicals making up a large percentage. According to a late February study by Pew Research Center, 45 percent of white evangelical adults surveyed said they did not want the vaccine.

Even the historically conservative evangelical Rev. Franklin Graham has made efforts to combat misinformation and skepticism within the community – adding in part to a lengthy Facebook post, “I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives.”

And when it comes to vaccine hesitancy, faith leaders could prove key.

“A lot of times, sources of information comes directly from the pastor and it’s the only information that they get,” Hunter said.

Here in Chicago, the Rev. Ira Acree held a vaccine drive at his West Side Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., on Sunday.

On April 17, Pastor Hunter co-organized a vaccination drive in K-Town at his Grace Memorial Baptist Church, 1457 S. Kenneth Ave.

But the most important thing, he said, was to lead by example. He noted to his congregants on Facebook that both he and his wife had taken the shot and were fine.

“I took it. I was the example. Then I spoke about it,” Hunter said. “People saw that and they actually verbalized it: ‘Well pastor, since you’ve taken it and I see you and the first lady, my wife, are OK, then we’ll try it.’”

He added that building trust and fighting vaccine misinformation is an all-hands-on-deck kind of task.

“Everyone that can help to eradicate this pandemic needs to help,” Hunter said.

Roughly half of the state and city have rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine. To reach herd immunity, experts project we need between 70 and 80 percent of a population to get vaccinated first.

To find vaccine appointments near you in Chicago, ZocDoc.com is helpful if you’re web savvy. But you can also call (312) 746-4835 for the CDPH COVID-19 vaccine call center if you prefer scheduling over the phone instead.

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For more information about finding a vaccine, click here. For more information about the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine in our area, vaccine tracker.

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