Leading by example: Danny K. Davis takes the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 20 in Washington, D.C.

Several West Side elected officials are urging Black Chicagoans to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can.

During a virtual press conference held Sunday, Congressman Danny Davis, city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, Alds. Emma Mitts (37th) and Jason Ervin (28th), and Cook County Commissioners Dennis Deer and Donna Miller said it’s imperative African Americans be willing to get the two-dose vaccine.

“Everyone should be taking the vaccine. We want to save life,” said Mitts, who acknowledged the distrust many in minority communities have of the medical establishment, in part due to the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

Deer, who serves as chairman of the Cook County Board’s Health and Hospitals Committee, said some people have told him they aren’t going to get the vaccine because of Tuskegee.

“This ain’t that,” said Deer, who along with other officials emphasized the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, which was approved in record time. “This is not Tuskegee; this is about you, your children and their generation.”

Quoting Socrates, he said if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’re going to always get what you’ve always gotten. “We can’t do the same thing that we’ve always done.”

Deer said he was delighted to see Congressman Davis get the vaccination earlier this month and hopes that encourages others to get the vaccine as soon as they can.

“I have had it injected into my body, and I guarantee that if I thought it would in any way harm myself or any other people, I would never ever recommend it,” said Davis who was vaccinated Dec. 20 in Washington, D.C.

Davis said he was pleased Mayor Lori Lightfoot chose The Loretto Hospital to be the site of the first vaccination given in Chicago. He said availability of the vaccine comes at such an important time: “The real joy of Christmas is this vaccine.”

Conyears-Ervin said when she saw the video of Davis getting vaccinated, she was envious and wanted to run to Washington, D.C., to get her dose. Conyears-Ervin said her family – which includes husband Ald. Ervin and their 4-year-old daughter – will take the vaccine as soon as possible.

She misses sitting down at the dinner table with her mother, who has medical challenges, and looks forward to when her young daughter’s Head Start teacher doesn’t have to tell the children they can’t share toys, touch each other or play together. And she won’t miss hearing her daughter say: “Why can’t I see my granny, why can’t I hug my granny?”

Speaking directly to her fellow Black Chicagoans, Conyears-Ervin said this pandemic must end. “The vaccination is here to help us. … This is the time to trust science.”

Miller also stressed the importance of trusting science. Miller, who worked for decades in the pharmaceutical industry, said when she started her career 25 years ago, AIDS was raging and there weren’t effective treatments. Now, the disease has been nearly eradicated, she said.

“That’s what science can do.”

The question shouldn’t be whether someone should get vaccinated but why it has taken so long for drugs and other vaccines to come to market before now, she said.

Miller noted her husband, a doctor, is on the front lines and will be getting the vaccine next week. She’ll be monitoring him and waiting for her own vaccination, “as a person who trusts science.”

Deer said if Chicagoans have questions about the vaccine, they should “call any of our offices. … We have to make sure you get vaccinated.”

Nearly 200,000 cases have been reported in Chicago since the pandemic began in spring 2020, and more than 4,000 people have died in the city from COVID-19, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

In the 60644 and 60651 ZIP codes, there have been 209 deaths and more than 8,600 cases reported from March 1 through Dec. 19.

Ervin said “everyone knows someone who’s lost someone to this dreaded disease.” He lost a cousin, and some families have lost many relatives, he added.

He urged West Siders to get vaccinated, so that “we can go back to some degree of normalcy.” 

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