Through the lens of a separated city: How do we provide equal and equitable access to vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic?



The statistics illustrated above in the infographic I created, tell their own story about Chicago. To briefly verbalize the overview, when comparing the different races and incomes of each neighborhood in Chicago to the number of vaccination sites and the number of total vaccines given, it is clear that there is a racist stigma. To further outline the issue at hand and the ethics behind it, I have created a case study based on the harrowing stats and real stories of those in Chicago who have faced this inequality. The accordion pages will walk you through the different pieces.


 I designed a case study to depict the vaccination disparity in the Chicagoland area. It is based on information I have gathered from several stories and sources and shows the true reality of many families in lower-income communities in Chicago. In many of these neighborhoods, less than 10% of citizens are vaccinated due to unequal access to vaccination sites, appointments, and doses. It is a reality that we need to change, and I am hoping that writing this case study will exhibit the true racial inequities in our city. 
The Smith family is an African American family living in West Englewood, a predominantly African American neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Mr. and Mrs. Smith live with their two children who go to school full time, and Mr. Smith’s parents, who are at high risk for the virus.  Since they are a multigenerational family living under one roof, they have decided that in order to keep everybody safe it would be best for all individuals who are of age to get vaccinated. 
Mrs. Smith has spent hours on the internet refreshing her screen trying to find an appointment in one of the few vaccination sites near her home but has had no luck. The same “unavailable” screen continues to pop up causing extreme frustration, especially when she canvases social media and sees the countless posts of others with their vaccination cards. Seemingly enough these people have gotten their appointments in northside neighborhoods, where in some areas, the average annual income is five times that of West Englewood. Regardless, the Smiths both work full-time jobs 7 days a week and have to pick up their children from in-person school on weekdays, therefore they do not have time to take off work and travel to other parts of the state to get their vaccine. 
After weeks of endless searching, it has become clear to Mrs. Smith that there are simply no appointment slots available in West Englewood or neighboring towns. What should be an easy task has now created a large undertaking for the Smith family. They not only have to take off work but transport Mr. Smith’s elderly parents to another part of the state. Their only other option is continuing to wait for an appointment to open up near their home while half the city gets double vaccinated without a problem. What is not clear is why those in lower-income communities are being valued differently than the wealthier communities, inherently affecting African Americans and Hispanic persons at a drastic rate.

Solutions and For Now Response

Currently, Chicago is in the process of opening up vaccinations to a larger part of our community such as teens 16+. Therefore, most (if not all) adults are able to get vaccinated if they can find an appointment. That being said, injustice still exists and change is needed. The statistics and the proposed case of the Smith family have us thinking about the application to a real city and opens up the question of: How should we continue to prioritize who receives vaccinations? Therefore I created potential opportunities for citizens and myself who do not have control over the process that the government creates for the vaccinations.

1. EDUCATE! The first step for any problem solver is spreading knowledge to others and getting a band of people supporting the cause. While this is important if you live in Chicago, it is even more important if you live elsewhere. Noticing and understanding the access to care in your community and helping others understand it as well, will make a change in itself.
2. TAKE ACTION! Whether it is volunteering at a vaccination site, helping elderly people navigate the internet to make appointments, or encouraging others to get the vaccine if they are lucky enough to be able to, any action to help weaken the disparity is important. With enough students making a change in their community, even small, a drastic change will occur.
3. WRITE! A more advantageous opportunity is to reach out to local policymakers about any injustice that you see occurring in your community. Especially if you feel that your community is struggling with access to the vaccine, reaching out to your alderman or members of the local council is a great option to show your dedication to the cause.

In conclusion, while this issue may be considered less of a bioethical issue than others, access to care is a real problem that needs addressing. After doing loads of research and finding out specific stats on my city has been breathtaking. This much knowledge has led me to create my own stance on the method Chicago is currently utilizing to make appointments, so I want to share my “hot take” on what is needed to have a better approach:
– I understand that we cannot move backward in the process, but before we open up the vaccine to children under the age of 15, it is crucial that we find a way to take a survey of the city to see how many people are still unvaccinated that PLAN ON getting vaccinated. This survey can help delay the process as a whole and create an opportunity to get a larger percentage of people vaccinated before the slots are taken by children who are extremely low risk for the virus. The data collected will help the CDC better distribute resources to communities in need to level out the statistics.
– Another key initiative is the allocation of vaccinations to the sites as well. By allowing each site a finite amount, the inequity can start to change. If there are leftover amounts at some sites more than others, a controlled amount can start to be utilized.
These options are attainable and not unachievable requests that I have developed through the creation of my case. In order to better the circumstances of the Smith family, I had to think in a way that would not in turn worsen the stakes for others. The best option being equality.


Request For Feedback: 

Hi everyone I really hope you enjoyed my presentation and were able to get something out of it! My questions for you now are what do you know about how covid is affecting different groups in your community? Why might this be, and what can you do to change it? I would love to hear your ideas about a change you could make, as it could inspire me as well! Thanks for your engagement, 

Jadyn Aling  


1 comment

  1. Thank you for a very thoughtful presentation!

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