With COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake Low, Local Health Organization In Harvey Uses More Personal Outreach

HARVEY, Ill. (CBS) — As turnout at mass-vaccination sites for COVID-19 shots , local health departments are turning to more personalized efforts.

CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra on Wednesday night took us inside a clinic room in Harvey, which is serving as a safe space for people scared of the shot to get their questions answered.

Beverly Davis is a success story. She was readying her arm Wednesday for her second and final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – something she didn’t want just a few weeks ago.

“I said I wasn’t going to take the vaccine,” Davis said. “I said no, I’m not going to take all that. I just was afraid.

That is a common refrain heard at Harvey’s Family Christian Health Center, and chief executive officer Dr. Lisa Green fights it daily.

“They’re legitimate questions and concerns, but that’s a lot to ask somebody out in public some place,” Dr. Green said, “and so people don’t, and they just say, ‘Well, I’ll take my chances.’”

Dr. Green said mistrust, fear, and some unfounded rumors are going around in the undocumented and Black populations in Harvey, are the reasons for the low turnout numbers. She said the pause of the also gave people looking for an excuse not to get any of the vaccines more fuel for their fire.

“And so now, what we’ve noticed is people have slowed up going to get the vaccine,” Dr. Green said.

Harvey has just 15 percent of its population fully vaccinated – the sixth lowest total in all of suburban Cook County. The Family Christian Health Center clinic combats it through conversation.

“When they come in to visit, we ask them, ‘Hey, have you gotten the vaccine?’” And if not, we respect the fact when they say, ‘No, I haven’t,’” Dr. Green said. “Then we engage – ‘Well, tell me why you haven’t.”

Answers to her questions without judgement, and prayer, convinced Davis.

“I’m like, you know what? I want to take it,” Davis said. “I have to let the fear get away from me from what the people were saying.”

Two weeks from Wednesday, Davis will be fully vaccinated – and she is glad to tell her neighbors who may still be on the fence all about it.

She said it represented some peace of mind “for me – for nobody else but me.

The Cook County Department of Public Health has identified Harvey as one of its communities needing more outreach. We are told a priority vaccination site specifically for the near south suburbs is in the works.