Mobile Operations Expanded, Priority Sites Join Mass Vaccination, Partner Efforts Forest Park, IL—The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) today outlined its strategies to achieve vaccine equity in suburban Cook County, highlighting hyperlocal tactics including mobile vaccination programs and Priority Vaccination Sites intended for those who live and work within the 32 Priority Communities identified by the county last month. CCDPH released its Vaccine Equity Report to outline the tactics it is currently using and considering to reach traditionally underserved communities in its vaccine program.
“Equity is front and center in our vaccination strategies, and now that all residents of Cook County age 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID, we must ensure that all communities are not only included but prioritized as we roll out our strategies,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “This is the very definition of public health and we will meet the challenge.”
Cook County last month announced 32 Priority Communities, using the COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI), and Social Vulnerability Index to determine the municipalities. Both indexes factor socioeconomic, household composition & disability, minority status & language, housing type & transportation, pre-existing health conditions and the state of the community’s healthcare system in their equations.
“Equity should be top of mind for all elected officials and public servants. I’m happy to stand with these leaders to discuss how we can reverse the ugly trends of the past and to provide true equity for all Cook County residents,” said Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry, 3rd District.
So far over 1.2 million doses have been administered to residents in CCDPH’s jurisdiction, including 508,249 individuals who have completed the vaccine series.
“Health equity is the reason for Cook County Health’s existence and is at the core of what we do,” said Israel Rocha, CEO of Cook County Health. “Our mass vaccination sites have been tremendously successful but they won’t do the job alone. We must meet people where they are whether geographically or psychologically, to ensure that all have access to vaccination.
The department is working with several dozen community-based organizations (CBOs), private health providers, and others to identify vulnerable residents, particularly in these 32 communities, and to arrange for vaccination appointments for those individuals.
“We know that our efforts so far, such as working with community groups to schedule appointments, have begun to pay off but we are expanding our capabilities to bring vaccine to every corner of the county,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, Senior Medical Officer and Co-Lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health. “Our mobile vaccination program has held 145 events and vaccinated over 23,000 individuals so far, with over 200 more clinics scheduled and on the runway. Reaching homebound populations, workplaces, community centers and houses of worship is essential right now and we are bringing the vaccine to the people – where they live and where they work.”
CCDPH realizes there is distrust in government due to racist policies and results of the past. Vaccine hesitancy is also a factor, but the county’s efforts to listen to and work with underserved communities are helping to change many minds about receiving vaccine.
“Equity is not just a social goal, it’s a public health necessity,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Senior Medical Officer and Co-Lead of CCDPH. “We realize that winning the trust of residents and vaccine skeptics will require us to work harder than we have to this point and we are already. But we won’t stop until we achieve equity in Cook County.”