CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday urged Black Chicagoans to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, noting vaccinations are lagging in the African American community, while new cases and hospitalizations are rising.

Arwady noted about 40% of all Chicagoans have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, but only about 25% of the city’s Black population has had at least one shot.

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Lightfoot said, in some predominantly Black neighborhoods, the vaccination rate is as low as 12%.

“We need to send out the alarm to everyone that makes sure that Black South Siders understand you must get the vaccine. It is safe,” Lightfoot said after touring the city’s mass vaccination site at Chicago State University.

The plea for more Black residents to get vaccinated comes as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise for more than a month.

Lightfoot said new case increases are highest among Black Chicagoans, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 44. The mayor said the city’s average test positivity rate stands at 5.6%, but for Black residents, it’s at 7.9%.

“We can’t rest, not while these numbers are on the rise,” she said. “Black Chicagoans once again are getting sicker, requiring hospital care, and dying more than any other demographic in our city, but we are not taking this life-saving vaccine like we should.”

The mayor said that’s part of the reason why the city’s mass vaccination site at Chicago State University are being set aside for more than a dozen South Side zip codes – 60615, 60616, 60617, 60619, 60620, 60621, 60628, 60629, 60632, 60633, 60636, 60637, 60638, 60643, 60649, 60652, 60653, 60655, and 60827.

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“So South Side, we are calling for you to come to CSU and get this life-saving vaccine,” Lightfoot said. “We can all turn these numbers around; the cases, the deaths, the hospitalizations, but we can only turn them around if Black South Siders get the vaccine. We must do this before it’s too late. We should not have people continue to die in Chicago from this virus when we have a life-saving vaccine that is free and readily available.”

Lightfoot said the CSU mass vaccination site, which opened on April 5, is now administering 500 first-dose vaccinations a day, and ramping up capacity through additional walk-in appointments and eventual drive-in services as more vaccine becomes available.

“This vaccination site has significantly allowed us to advance our equity-based and inclusion-driven vaccine equity strategy, which pushes vaccine into communities that need it the most,” Lightfoot said.

City officials said appointments for the CSU mass vaccination site and other city-run vaccination clinics are available online at zocdoc.com/vaccine, or by calling 312-746-4835.

“This vaccine is safe, is effective, and increasingly is available to everybody who wants it in Chicago,” Arwady said.

Arwady said, for the first time last week, the city received enough vaccine to send to every provider who wanted it.

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“We haven’t seen that in four months. So vaccine is available, it is safe, it is effective,” she said.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff