A legion of yellow-vested door-knockers will be fanning across at least 13 Chicago neighborhoods this summer to promote the COVID-19 vaccine in lagging communities, officials said Friday.
Wallace “Gator” Bradley is a pardoned former gang member who now runs a community activist group and will be one of the canvassers. During a news conference in Englewood, where officials rolled out the door-knocking campaign, Bradley raised his official vaccination card from a lectern.
“I’m a card carrier,” Bradley said. “I’m telling you: get vaccinated. It’s no joke, people died from this. A lot of us had friends and family members that died from this. So it’s very important.”
The 13 neighborhoods will be Auburn Gresham, Austin, Chatham, East Garfield Park, Englewood, Hegewisch, Montclare, Riverdale, Roseland, South Deering, South Shore, West Englewood and West Garfield Park. Some of them overlap with the original 15 communities that were first targeted with “Protect Chicago Plus,” a city-run effort that began in January to bring up vaccination rates in places hard-hit by COVID-19 and with barriers to the shot.
“We’ll be going community by community, block by block, house by house talking to Chicagoans, answering questions about the safety and effectiveness, and then letting them know where they can get vaccinated,” public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
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The timeline of the enhanced door-knocking drive likely will take up the next couple of months, Arwady said, and comes as the city approaches its eighth month of vaccine distribution — with racial and geographic disparities still entrenched. The most recent city data show that 58% of Asian and white Chicagoans have gotten at least a first dose, while that number is 44% for Latino residents and 35% for Black residents.
Another door knocker, Lisa Butler, said she will be joining the effort after heading a team of contact tracers — and recovering from the coronavirus herself.
“I was down for the count,” Butler said. “It literally took me from May of last year until about maybe September of last year to really start feeling better. … To get this information out into the city, I found that this was super important. This is something that I wanted to do.”
In addition to Chicago’s contact tracers and aldermanic offices, a wide array of community groups including the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, One Health Englewood, Kids Off the Block and more will be supplying their forces.
Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the hope is to use the same groundwork for future public health efforts to combat disparities among neighborhoods, Arwady said.
“Englewood and West Englewood ... always are the ones that don’t receive the attention,” said Rodney Johnson, executive director of One Health Englewood. “We have the most health disparities in the whole city. So I think it’s very important that we use this opportunity not only to address COVID, but actually other disparities we have in our community.”