CHICAGO (CBS) —  There are soaring COVID cases among Black Chicagoans and there have been much lower vaccination rates in African American neighborhoods.

As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is trying to change those trends. She’s getting help from Black leaders and churches to take on persistent vaccine reluctance among some African Americans.

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The St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Roseland opened its doors Tuesday for people to get the second dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.

“It’s very important for the church to do this because this is the community of Roseland,” said church administrator Eva Greene. “And people in the Roseland community need to have access to the vaccine.”

Church administrator Eva Greene said more than 120 people will receive the first and second doses at the church, administered by the New Roseland Community Hospital.

According to Greene, that the shots are given at the church creates trust in the Black neighborhood.

“It very important that the church is involved with these efforts because that lets the community know that as Black people, we are all in this together,” Greene said.

“The vaccine is safe,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Safe for you and others in your household.”

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In bringing attention to the mass vaccination site at Chicago State University, Lightfoot sounded the alarm. While half of Chicago’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Lightfoot said the number is much lower in South Side Black neighborhoods: about 12% to 19%.

In the Black community, the COVID positivity rate is 7.9% which is more than two points higher than the rest of Chicago. The sharpest increase, according to Mayor Lightfoot, is African Americans 18-to-44.

“We should not have people continue to die in Chicago from this virus when we have the life-saving vaccine that is free and readily available,” Lightfoot said.

The New Roseland Community Hospital has mobile units vaccinating the South Side and has an ally in the St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

“The more that we’re vaccinated, the better we will be, and we all be able to get out and fellowship and entertaining with each other,” said Greene.

Mayor Lightfoot said Black Chicagoans are dying and getting sick more than other groups, and by her appearance at Chicago State University’s mass vaccination site, she’s trying convince the community the vaccine is available.

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