Making sure ‘trusted places’ can distribute vaccines
CommunityHealth, located on Chicago’s West Side, is the largest free health center in the country. Its roughly 8,000 active patients have no health insurance, and a majority come from immigrant communities, primarily Latinx and Polish, said CEO Stephanie Willding.
Some Latinx community members have expressed vaccine hesitancy, Willding said, suggesting there may be concerns about the vaccine’s safety or wariness of benefiting from a government program for fear it could be held against them later. The center is hearing concerns from immigrant patients in both undocumented and mixed-status families that “they won’t be included or factored into the vaccine distribution, because it wasn’t made for them,” she added.
“In Chicago, the Latinx community has accounted for the greatest proportion of COVID infections, and yet they believe they won’t be [eligible to receive] a vaccine,” Willding said. “That’s a really heartbreaking thought.”
She said she is “monitoring” reports that patients might be asked to provide personal information that could be shared with federal agencies, a move that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo cautioned could discourage undocumented people from taking the vaccine. If such a plan moved forward, Willding said, “it is going to be very difficult to convince some from the immigrant community to get the vaccine.”
Patients who come to CommunityHealth consider it “a trusted place” to get medical care and know that the organization doesn’t share their information with the government, Willding said. When the center opened a coronavirus testing center in late April, it was “absolutely inundated” by patients who hadn’t felt safe going to a hospital for their test, she said.
“An equitable distribution of the vaccine will take into account those lessons that we’ve learned and make sure that community centers, organizations like CommunityHealth where patients know that they are safe and that they trust, can distribute the vaccine,” she said…