Community Organizers Work To Combat Vaccine Hesitancy After Johnson & Johnson Pause

One day into the nationwide pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, there's already been a devastating effect on vaccine confidence for some Chicagoans. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports on the fallout.

Video Transcript

- Just one day into the nationwide pause on the use of that J&J vaccine, and it's already having devastating effects on vaccine confidence for some Chicagoans. Today, CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey got a look at the fallout on the city's far south side. Megan, they were already having trouble getting people to sign up.

MEGAN HICKEY: Right, Erica. Today, we spent time with a group that's been fighting vaccine misinformation for months, directing residents to vaccination sites like this one here in Englewood, and they say that J&J halt is already setting them back.

AUTRY PHILLIPS: And this is what's called canvasing. We canvas and we be in the community, looking for opportunities to talk to individuals.

MEGAN HICKEY: For years, Target Area Development Corp has been starting conversations with residents about violence de-escalation.

- We'll be going door to door, passing out [INAUDIBLE].

MEGAN HICKEY: Carjacking safety.

- What's going on, brother?

MEGAN HICKEY: And for the last year, COVID-19 precautions.

AUTRY PHILLIPS: We took up the cause of actually educating our community residents about COVID.

MEGAN HICKEY: Executive director Pastor Autry Phillips said they prayed for the vaccine.

- How are you doing?

MEGAN HICKEY: But residents here in Auburn Gresham were not as receptive as they'd hoped.

AUTRY PHILLIPS: There was a certain percentage of the workers who did not want to have anything to do with it, my staff.

MEGAN HICKEY: Your own staff?

AUTRY PHILLIPS: My own staff.

MEGAN HICKEY: So it was an uphill battle that got a lot steeper with yesterday's announcement from the CDC and FDA about halting J&J vaccinations. How has that impacted already the hesitancy?

AUTRY PHILLIPS: Megan, it's like dropping a bomb. It's taking us down a pitch, right. We're being challenged. Like, this is why I didn't get it the first time.

MEGAN HICKEY: But they're continuing to fight. Every Friday, the group passes out hundreds of boxed lunches in Englewood, Auburn Gresham, and Chatham, where they start open and honest conversations about the vaccine. Phillips says explaining the J&J pause will be one of the major topics at this week's pick up.

AUTRY PHILLIPS: When we're giving those out, we're able to talk to those individuals about the value of wearing the mask, and the value of getting the shot.

MEGAN HICKEY: Now just last week, the CDC awarded Chicago $33 million to support local efforts like this one. No word tonight on specific plans for those funds, but Phillips hopes that vaccine education is at the top of the list. Live in Englewood, Megan Hickey, CBS 2 Investigators.