CHICAGO (CBS) — One day into the nationwide pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, there’s already been a devastating effect on vaccine confidence for some Chicagoans.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports on the fallout from Chicago’s far South Side where they were already having trouble getting people to sign up. CBS 2 spent time with a group that’s been working hard to squash vaccine misinformation for months.

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Directing residents to get their vaccines at sites like one in Englewood. Organizers said the Johnson & Johnson halt is now setting them back.

“This is what’s called canvassing. We canvas, We be in the community looking for opportunities to talk to individuals.”

For years Target Area Development Corp. has been starting conversations with residents about violence de-escalation. And for the last year, COVID-19 precautions. Pastor Autry Phillips is the Executive Director of the Target Area Development Corporation.

“We took up the cause of actually educating our community residents about COVID.”

Executive Director Pastor Autry Phillips said they prayed for the vaccine. But residents in Auburn Gresham were not as receptive as they’d hoped.

“There was a certain percentage of the workers who didn’t want anything to do with it,” said Phillip, who added that some of those people included members of his own staff.

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It was an uphill battle that got a lot steeper with Tuesday’s announcement from the CDC and FDA about halting Johnson & Johnson vaccinations.

How did that impact the hesitancy that existed?

“It’s like dropping a bomb,” Phillips said. “It’s taking us down a pitch. Now we’re being challenged (with) ‘this is why I didn’t get it the first time.'”

But they’re continuing the fight. Every Friday, the group passes out hundreds of boxed lunches in Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham. It’s where they start open and honest conversations about the vaccine.

 

Phillips said explaining the Johnson & Johnson pause will be one of the major topics at this week’s pick up.

“When were giving those out, we’re able to talk to those individuals about the value of wearing a mask and the value of getting a shot,” Phillips said.

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Last week, the CDC awarded Chicago more than $33 million to support local efforts like Target Area’s. There’s no word tonight on specific plans for the funds, but Phillips said he hopes vaccine education is at the top of the list.

Megan Hickey