CHICAGO (CBS) — The city of Chicago has opened eligibility for the COVID vaccine to Group 1C: Anyone over 16 who has certain medical conditions.

It means even more Chicagoans are hunting for vaccines. But one group is focusing on getting appointments for Black and Brown Chicagoans.

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CBS 2’s Meredith Barack has more on their mission.

City data shows that as of March 17, only 16% of the Latinx community and 14% of the Black community have received their first dose.

The group, Vaccinate Abuela Chicago, has now made it their goal to share resources and find appointments in the communities hit hardest by COVID-19.

“As we know, this has affected way more people of color. As far as deaths are concerned, it really hit both Black and Brown communities in Chicago.”

City data shows COVID has already killed more than 3,600 Black or Latinx Chicagoans. So Esteban Andres Cruz said when the vaccine rollout efforts began, he knew he needed to do something.

“These groups of people are already disenfranchised from health care and other things,” Cruz said. So we were kind of used to having to fight extra just to get the bare minimum for our own immediate families, as well as for our communities.”

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Alongside Anna Lopez, the two co-founded Vaccinate Abuela Chicago, focused on helping Black and Brown communities, especially senior citizens, find and make appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine.

He said those groups face far more obstacles when trying to get vaccinated.

“Building a Walgreens account, you know, or any of the ZocDoc (websites), or COVID-19 for Cook County, any of these things,” Cruz said. “A lot of times it’ll ask for either Social Security number or for if you have health insurance, and a lot of these people also do not have either of those things.”

Cruz said on top of a lack of internet or computer, language barriers or a fear of deportation can also play a role in the ability to make an appointment.

They’re not only helping through their Facebook group, but they’re encouraging people to ask around their neighborhoods and find out if people need help.

“Look for more seniors,” Cruz said. “Go on and ask the bodega that you work at, ask the people that work there, ‘Has everybody gotten vaccinated? Do you have an abuela? Do you have a Titi, a Tio? Who needs the vaccine still?”

While the Facebook group has grown to more than 300 members, Cruz said the grassroots effort has helped hundreds of others find an appointment, a responsibility he said is important, because one day we too will be an abuela, someone’s grandmother.

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On top of making appointments and sharing resources, Esteban said he and other volunteers have even gone as far as driving people to and from their vaccination appointments because transportation can also be a barrier for some.

Meredith Barack