CHICAGO (CBS) — Citing lagging vaccination rates in many zip codes in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced a “modest goal” of getting at least 77% of the city’s population at least partially vaccinated by the end of the year.
“We’ve got to do more to protect our residents, and we’re committed to doing just that,” Lightfoot said. “COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, it’s still here. The Delta variant is still very present, and it is deadly. So we are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.”READ MORE: Judge Bars Chicago Police Union President John Catanzara From Encouraging Officers To Defy City's Vaccine Mandate
The mayor said she would like to see at least 77% of Chicagoans age 12 and up get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. She also set a “stretch goal” of getting at least 77% of eligible Chicagoans fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
As of Thursday, approximately 1.6 million people in Chicago, or 72.4% of the population age 12 and up, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to Lightfoot.
“That’s incredible progress, but it’s not enough,” the mayor said.
The target of 77% is not a random number. It matches the number of official community areas in Chicago.
“We have been making really good progress in Chicago against COVID, and that is thanks to the way our 77 communities have stepped up,” said Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. “The reason we have pegged 77% as a goal here is not that 77% is a magical number in terms of hitting herd immunity, but it reflects those 77 communities.”
Dubbed the Protect Chicago 77, city officials will launch a new marketing campaign to call on unvaccinated Chicagoans to get their shots. The city also will work with community groups in each neighborhood to help develop targeted vaccination strategies to help people in every community get vaccinated.
The city also will produce a series of videos to help people who have been vaccinated convince unvaccinated family and friends get their shots.
“I do not want you thinking we are done vaccinating here in Chicago, because this is how we are going to get through the winter. We’re not done with COVID. I wish we were,” Arwady said.
Arwady said within the past week, every neighborhood in Chicago has surpassed the 50% mark for vaccinations among people age 12 and up.
However, Lightfoot noted the vaccination rate for all ages in some neighborhoods remains below 50%.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Chilly Tonight, Sunny And Cool Weekend
“If we don’t make giant leaps forward there, every unvaccinated person in those zip codes is at extreme risk,” she said.
The lowest overall vaccination rates in Chicago are in the Englewood, South Chicago and Woodlawn neighborhoods, where the rate is only 42% or 43%.
Arwady and Lightfoot said it’s neighborhoods like those where it’s most important to boost vaccination rates, because they’re more at risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19.
“It is the neighborhoods that have the furthest to grow that will help us the most meet that 77%,” Arwady said.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who chairs the City Council Health Committee, said getting vaccinated is not just about protecting yourself, but protecting others, especially those who can’t get vaccinated, such as children who aren’t eligible for shots, or people who are immunocompromised.
“If you don’t get the shot for yourself, get it for someone that you love, get it for someone that you care about, because it’s not just about you, it’s about everyone being safe,” he said.
Lightfoot noted that people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are 15 times more likely to die from the virus than someone who is vaccinated. She said that number increases dramatically among the Black and Latino populations, particularly for people between the ages of 50 and 60.
The mayor said, among Blacks and Latinos between the age of 50 and 60, the probability of death from COVID-19 if they are not vaccinated is approximately 50%.
“I don’t want people playing with their lives, and that’s what I feel like when I see these numbers every week,” she said.
Lightfoot said she’s encouraged that most people who aren’t yet vaccinated in Chicago aren’t adamantly against getting the shot. She said polling shows a very small percentage of unvaccinated Chicagoans have said they’ll never take the vaccine, while the vast majority simply have questions about the vaccine, or need to make the time to get their shots.MORE NEWS: Sky Cruise To 86-50 Win Over Mercury, Take 2-1 Lead In WNBA Finals
“They’re not rigidly against the vaccine. So I want to make sure that that point is loud and clear, that there is a real opportunity for us to continue that outreach, and reach people, and bring them this life-saving vaccine,” she said.