Loretto Hospital Got Vaccines to Help Black West Siders — but More Than Half of Early On-site Shots Went to White and Asian People
This story was produced with Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit newsroom focused on Chicago’s neighborhoods.
More than half of Loretto Hospital’s early on-site coronavirus vaccine doses went to white and Asian people — although city officials expected it to prioritize the West Side’s Black and Latino communities, a recently revealed audit shows.
The hospital also admitted to vaccinating ineligible people at Trump Tower and a luxury Gold Coast jewelry shop, but it downplayed other questionable vaccinations in the report, which was obtained by Block Club Chicago and the Better Government Association.
The report, which details what Loretto found after its staff audited its vaccination program, says 30 percent of people who got their shots at Loretto were white and 24 percent were Asian, while only 27 percent were Black and 12 percent Hispanic or Latino.
In comparison, the population of Austin, the neighborhood the hospital serves, is 79 percent Black, 14.4 percent Latino, 4.8 percent white and .5 percent Asian, according to the Census’ American Community Survey five-year estimates.
Loretto has been embroiled in scandal for months due to its vaccination program.
Block Club reported on Loretto’s improper vaccination events and others in March, leading the city’s health department to cut off vaccine doses to Loretto. The hospital’s chief operating officer, Dr. Anosh Ahmed, also resigned amid the scandal.
At the time, city officials said Loretto let “well-connected” people cut the line, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there should be an independent investigation into Loretto’s vaccinations.
The hospital’s board ordered an audit March 25 — but it was the hospital itself that performed the review, against Lightfoot’s wishes. The hospital then tried to keep the audit from reporters.
The internal audit was completed April 6, less than two weeks after it began, and provided to the Chicago Department of Public Health. A summary was sent to reporters, but the hospital refused to share the full audit. The Better Government Association and Block Club Chicago submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the city to get a copy of the audit, which was released Monday.
The audit contains few details about the improper off-site vaccinations, does not say how officials determined questionable vaccinations were ultimately “eligible” and does not say how or if on-site vaccinations were investigated to ensure recipients were eligible.
“Seventy percent of those vaccinated were people of color, and more than half of Loretto’s vaccinations distributed to Chicagoans went to Austin residents, which is a proud feat,” Loretto spokeswoman Becky Carroll said. “And we were equally proud to be among the first to provide vaccinations, per the city’s rules, to all available health care and frontline workers and other eligible individuals.”
But city officials previously said the hospital was prioritized because it was expected to serve West Siders.
“I’ve been very upfront about the fact that I’m deeply disappointed in the way Loretto not only, in my view, misappropriated vaccines … that were intended to serve the West Side community, a low-income, Black community that Loretto Hospital has a mission to serve,” Lightfoot said in March.
Improper Off-Site Vaccinations
The hospital’s self-audit does not provide data about the people who got shots at individual off-site events or information about how those events happened.
Loretto’s audit provides little information about its off-site vaccinations and why some were “decided eligible.”
The report does disclose 70 people were vaccinated at Trump Tower, where Ahmed lived, and it acknowledges those recipients were not eligible for vaccinations. At the time, Chicago was in Phase 1B, and only frontline workers and people 65 and older were eligible.
Another 49 people who got vaccinated at the Geneva Seal jewelry shop in the Gold Coast were also listed as ineligible in the audit.
Those events happened when supply of vaccines was low and people were still desperate for shots. At the time, only frontline workers and people 65 and older were eligible for shots in Chicago.
The West Side and Black and Latino people in Chicago have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 — and a source who works at Loretto previously said people were calling the hospital daily, trying to get vaccinated, at the time of the improper vaccinations.
The report lists several vaccinations that were “decided eligible” for various reasons: 258 shots at a suburban church attended by CEO George Miller, 21 shots at a Villa Park religious school and 10 people who live in the suburbs but were related to a doctor with ties to Loretto.
The vaccinations at Miller’s Oak Forest church, which is 17 miles from Loretto, are listed as “decided eligible ... outside of Chicago — healthcare in Chicago, work in Chicago, 65+.” But the report doesn’t say how or if the hospital determined if people who got shots at those events met those eligibility requirements.
Similarly, no information is provided about why vaccinations at “IFS” — which appears to be the Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park, more than 11 miles from Loretto — were done and subsequently “decided eligible.”
Only 30 Percent Of People Who Got Loretto Shots Live In Austin, Audit Shows
The hospital was picked to administer the first COVID-19 vaccine shots in Illinois because officials wanted to show Black and Latino people would be prioritized in vaccinations. Loretto, a small safety net hospital in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side, serves many low-income people and Black and Latino Chicagoans.
But the audit shows that, of 10,225 doses administered on-site, just 27 percent of people who got vaccinated at Loretto are Black. More than half of the people who got doses are white or Asian.
The population of Austin is overwhelmingly Black. Just 4.8 percent of residents are white, and 0.5 percent are Asian.
The hospital’s 5,443 off-site vaccine doses gave greater priority to Black and Latino people, though Black people still received far fewer shots than their proportion of the area’s population: 31 percent of people who got shots off-site were Black, 39 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 21 percent were white and 4 percent were Asian.
The audit also shows about 40 percent of all people who got shots though Loretto do not live in Chicago. Only 31.2 percent of all people who got shots through the hospital live in Austin.
Of vaccinations done at the hospital, 49.7 percent were given to Chicago residents, and only 18.5 percent were given to Austin residents, according to the report.
Loretto was not required to only vaccinate Chicagoans or people who live in Austin. Carroll said people eligible under the city’s guidelines, regardless of where they lived, could have gone to Loretto for their shots.
The audit notes it was difficult to determine if people were eligible based on their residency. Using ZIP codes to determine a person’s residency was an “imperfect” method, as some ZIP code information was out of date, according to the audit.
The report does not say if Loretto investigated if people who got vaccinated at Loretto Hospital were eligible — though WBEZ reported on ineligible county judges getting their shots at the hospital and Crain’s reported state Rep. Camille Lilly of Chicago, an executive at Loretto, gave the hospital a list of people she wanted vaccinated. The hospital has denied the list’s existence.
The hospital conducted “a cross-sectional retrospective analysis” of 15,668 doses administered by Loretto on- and off-site as of March 15. It did not look at doses after that.
“The design and methodology chosen for this audit was aimed at increasing transparency of the program, as well as providing insight into the demographics of patients served,” according to the report.
Lightfoot has said she wanted an independent investigation of vaccine distribution at Loretto.
“To be clear, there should be an independent investigation; I wasn’t expecting Loretto to audit themselves,” Lightfoot said in late March. “There should be an independent investigation to determine the specific uses for every dose they have been allocated.”
Still, the city’s health department reviewed the audit and decided to set up a city-run clinic at Loretto in mid-April.