The Crusader Newspaper Group

Many residents in Black neighborhoods still aren’t fully vaccinated

City to give new COVID-19 booster shot for those who received the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines

As indoor gatherings increase ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, many residents in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods still aren’t fully vaccinated, according to a Crusader analysis of the latest data from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The data comes as an increasing number of flu cases and the respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 cases fuel concerns of a “tridemic” as people meet indoors at the start of the cold season.

In Chicago, new COVID-19 cases have pushed the city to the medium risk level in the spread of the coronavirus.

The risk is even higher in Chicago’s 21 Black zip codes, where many residents haven’t received both doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Since the city began administering the doses in December 2021, many residents in 20 Black zip codes have been fully vaccinated in neighborhoods where the vaccination rates are lower than the city’s 75.1 percent.

Zip code 60629 (West Lawn, Chicago Lawn, Ashburn, Garfield Ridge) is the only Black zip code that has a higher vaccination rate at 76.9 percent. About 11 Black zip codes have full vaccination rates below 60 percent. No data is available on the percentages of residents who have received booster shots by Chicago zip codes.

covid vaccine rates

Health officials say being fully vaccinated with booster shots is the best way of protecting one from the coronavirus this holiday season. Residents who received just one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Without the second dose and booster shots, the first dose will eventually be ineffective in fighting the virus.

Many Blacks in Chicago received the single Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a mass vaccination site at Chicago State University in 2021. Johnson & Johnson also produced its own booster shot, but the drug maker has not made available a second booster shot.

This Saturday, November 19, the CDPH will hold a free vaccination event that will provide fresh doses of the new COVID-19 vaccines, known as bivalent boosters, designed specifically to target the omicron subvariants.

The vaccination event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kennedy King College, 6301 S. Halsted St.

Approved by the FDA, health officials say the new bivalent booster vaccines are different from all previous COVID-19 vaccines and boosters since they target the virus strains currently circulating, as well as the original strains. Health officials also say the new bivalent booster generates a stronger immune response against current and future variants.

Regardless of the primary vaccine received, everyone age 5 and up should receive a bivalent booster two months after their second dose or their last booster shot. A complete primary series of vaccine is required (two doses of Pfizer/Moderna/Novavax or one dose of Johnson & Johnson) before receiving a bivalent booster.

Children aged 6 months to 4 years are not eligible for a bivalent booster.

Saturday’s event will also administer free flu vaccine shots that residents can safely get the same day as the booster shot.

People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should consult with their specialty provider about timing and dosage of vaccines.

In Chicago’s Black neighborhoods, COVID-19 has killed at least 91 residents in Black zip codes since June.

In Chicago, Blacks disproportionately have been impacted by COVID-19, more than Latinos and white residents. CDPH records show that the disease has killed 3,325 Blacks in the city, which is nearly 42 percent of the 7,929 COVID-19 deaths in the city. Blacks make up 29 percent of the city’s 2.7 million residents.

Of 21 Chicago Black zip codes, four had positivity rates slightly higher than the city’s average of 4.4 percent on Monday, November 14.

But public health data show hospitalization rates and deaths are currently down in Chicago.

Chicago health officials also reported that flu cases continue to increase and are at similar levels to peak activity during the 2021-2022 season.

As of November 10, four flu ICU hospitalization cases were reported in one week. Since October 2, eight influenza-associated ICU hospitalizations have been reported.

The CDPH has reported that a total of 519 flu cases were diagnosed in the past several months. Since October 2, 2022, the CDPH says that 904 of 24,288 people tested positive for the flu. There is no flu data by Chicago zip codes currently available.

Health officials in Chicago say getting the flu vaccination is the best way residents can protect themselves from the virus. They say all Chicagoans six months and older are encouraged to get vaccinated.

Health organizations say nationwide, flu cases are reportedly high in at least 22 states with the hospitalization rate nationwide at its highest rate this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Health experts are alarmed by the numbers considering the fact the flu season usually doesn’t ramp up until December or January.

Experts say they noted the early surge as flu cases were low during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and people may not have their usual immunity.

But experts note that COVID-19 cases remain at relatively low levels so far this fall even as indoor gatherings increase.

There is also an early wave of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSVTrusted Source) that has filled many hospitals with children who have contracted the illness. Those cases prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning earlier this month.

Health experts are stepping up calls to warn citizens that a “tridemic” of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 may hit the country this winter as people spend more time indoors and safety protocols are relaxed.

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