Analysis of Chicago vaccine distribution finds large racial disparities

An analysis of Chicago vaccine distribution data by USA Today shows that there are large racial disparities in who is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine across the city. Primarily white zip codes are disproportionately receiving doses of the vaccine compared to those that are primarily Black or Latino.

Zip codes that are majority-Black or Latino average around 5% of residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The average in majority white zip codes is 13%. In four majority-white zip codes more than 20% of residents have received the vaccine.


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Experts predict multiple reasons for the disparities. First, it is possible that those that live in white zip-codes are more likely to fall into groups eligible for the vaccine. Under Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout, any Illinoisan over the age of 65, all front-line workers and medical personnel are eligible for the vaccine. Last week, Illinois expanded the vaccine eligibility to include pregnant women and those with comorbidities. Cook County, which includes Chicago, did not follow the rest of the state with the expansion.

The disparities may also exist due to inherent inequities in the health care system, according to experts. More resources exist in majority-white zip codes and they are more equipped to distribute the vaccine. As health departments scrambled to get the vaccine out, the more equipped areas were ready to roll out the vaccine first.

Experts also believe that vaccine skepticism among minority communities could play a role.

An analysis done by WBEZ in November shows that Chicago’s Black community has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. More than 16 of every 10,000 Black residents in the city had died of the virus at that point. The number is significantly higher than the 9.2 white deaths out of every 10,000 white residents and 10.6 Latino deaths per 100,000 Latino residents.

The analysis also discovered that six of the ten zip codes that suffered the most deaths were majority-Black.

These trends have occurred nationwide. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Black Americans are disproportionately more likely to suffer from negative health outcomes due to COVID-19, while also being less likely to have received the vaccine in the first few months of the vaccine rollout.  

Cook County, which includes Chicago, has recorded 466,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020. The state has also recorded over 22,000 COVID-19 deaths.

As of Monday afternoon, 336,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Cook County.