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Rush At Panel On COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: "Stop Playing Russian Roulette" With Lives, Get The Vaccine

April 23, 2021

Panel comes amidst an unprecedented drop in number of vaccinations in U.S. over the past week

Vaccine Panel

CHICAGO — Last night, following a tour of Chicago State University's mass vaccination site, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) convened a panel discussion with local public health experts about the COVID-19 vaccines and urged Illinoisans to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The panel comes amidst reports on an unprecedented drop in vaccinations in the U.S. over the past week, a worrying sign of declining demand and the challenges ahead in the road to getting enough Americans vaccinated to reach herd immunity and beat the virus for good.

"The only way that we are going to beat this pandemic is when you join me in getting the vaccine," Rush said. "Stop playing Russian roulette with your grandparents and your aunts and uncles and your mothers and your daddies, stop playing Russian roulette with their lives and your lives. Get your shot. Get your vaccine."

Rush also quipped: "If we were giving away Chicken McNuggets here tonight, the hall would be overflowing. And most of you who would be there don't know what is in that Chicken McNugget. You trust McDonalds. You ought to trust our doctors who are telling you that the only way we can meet this pandemic and stop our loved ones and neighbors, our loved ones from dying from this dreaded disease is that you and I get our vaccine."

The virtual panel discussion, which Rush convened from CSU's mass vaccination site, focused in particular on the effects of COVID-19 on Black Americans and addressing common concerns from Black Americans about the vaccines. The discussion was moderated by Dr. George Smith, a public health faculty member of the College of Health Sciences at Chicago State University. Panelists Dr. Amaal Tokars, Assistant Director at the Illinois Department of Public Health, Dr. Daria Terrell, the Director of Clinical Programming and Health Outcomes at St. Bernard Hospital, and Julie-Ann Collins, a Nurse Practitioner at Friend Health, gave brief presentations about the vaccines and answered audience questions. Viewers also heard from Christopher Thomas, an Illinois resident who discussed his experience getting the vaccine.

"1 out of 800 African Americans died to COVID, compared to 1 in 1,300 of their white counterparts,"said Dr. Daria Terrell of St. Bernard Hospital. "We know that as African Americans, we often are the victims of undertreatment, so we're not treated with the same regiments, we're not offered the same treatments as other Americans in this country. And we also don't always have access to the same quality of care. And I will suggest to you… that this vaccine represents one moment in our time, one moment in our history where for once, we have the opportunity to get quality care. We have the opportunity to get top-of-the-line treatment for a problem."

While all Illinois residents age 16+ are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, countering lingering skepticism and hesitancy about the vaccines — particularly in the wake of the pause on the J&J vaccine — remains a serious challenge. A recent poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 13 percent of adults would "definitely not" get the vaccine, an additional 7 percent would get it "only if required," and 17 percent of adults would "wait and see" once the vaccine was available to them. 24 percent of Black adults said they would "wait and see," making them one of the most likely groups to give this response. Experts agree that in order to reach herd immunity, between 70 percent and 90 percent of the population must be fully vaccinated.

Video of the panel is available here and photos are available here.

For information about where to get the COVID-19 in Illinois's First Congressional District, visit Rush.House.Gov/Vaccine.