Aurora area groups issue call for racial equity in distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Black people continue to die from COVID-19 at disproportionately higher rates than whites in Illinois! We know that contributing factors to the disproportionate death rates in Black communities include co-morbidities, the lack of health insurance, no access to health care services, and housing that does not allow for social distancing.

These are exacerbated by low-wage employment that does not offer work-from-home options but requires interaction with the public and reliance on public transportation. Both of which increase the likelihood of exposure to the disease. We also know that our most underserved populations, including seniors, can be especially vulnerable to the disease. They may not have access to a computer or know-how, or where to get the latest information on COVID-19.

In light of these indisputable truths, a Call to Action is required!

Now that vaccines have been developed to fight COVID-19, a new issue has emerged; turning delivery of the vaccine into vaccinations for Black communities as soon as possible.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, only 8.2% of Illinois vaccine doses have been administered to Black residents, who make up 14% of the state's population. Comparatively, 74.5% of all Illinois vaccine doses have been administered to white residents who make up 61% of the population.

We, the undersigned, are committed to working with communities and community leaders, stakeholders, faith leaders, the NAACP, Urban League affiliates, community-based organizations, Black fraternities, and sororities, public health experts, mayors, federal and state elected officials, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Gov. Pritzker to ensure that the strategy to fight this deadly disease through information, testing and vaccination is grounded in racial equity and cultural awareness. To this end, we propose the following for Black communities:

• Production of appropriate supplies of the vaccine.

• Development of a racially equitable distribution schedule for vaccinations.

• Launching a 100-day vaccination campaign on March 1.

• Ensuring that the most vulnerable communities receive the vaccine first, not last.

• Deploying culturally empathetic approaches for vaccine distribution.

There should also be an acknowledgment and discussion of past and present traumatization of Black communities by the medical community that is implemented in tandem with vaccination efforts.

This will help reduce levels of fear and doubt and increase the likelihood of vaccine acceptance thereby increasing the number of vaccinations.

After all, vaccination is the best defense against the disease. These endeavors will promote the highest ideals of public health for all.

To do otherwise would be an unforgivable dereliction of public responsibility to the Black community.

Theodia Gillespie

President & CEO

Quad County Urban League

Michael Childress


Terrie Simmons

Co-founder, Sisters United

Regina Brent

Unity Partnership

Pastor Jesse Hawkins

Cathedral of Grace, St. John AME Church

Peggy Hicks

Fox Valley Ministerial Alliance

Pastor Julian Spencer

Main Baptist Church

Pastor Kevin Bedford

Progressive Baptist Church

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