When Chicago Public Schools gave students the day off as part of a vaccine awareness effort, Rush University Medical Center answered the call to give the COVID-19 vaccine to children at its three school-based health centers. For the staff at Rush, the event was one of hundreds of special clinics bringing the vaccine to Chicagoans.
On Nov. 12, parents brought their children as young as 5 to the Rush health centers at Orr Academy and Simpson Academy high schools and kids 12 and up to the center at Crane Medical Preparatory High School. In all, the three high schools vaccinated 45 children that day.
“It was a terrific opportunity to reach the younger children, those ages 5 to 11, who only recently have been able to get the vaccine,” said Sally Lemke, director of Community-Based Practices at Rush. The school-based health centers provide ongoing health care to CPS students, which includes routine inoculations as well as the COVID-19 vaccine. The centers may plan additional special vaccine days for the community when school is not in session, she said.
In addition to the school-based centers, Rush staff bring vaccine to underserved Chicagoans through several other efforts, including:
- Pop-up vaccine clinics hosted five days a week in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health.
- Weekly neighborhood vaccine clinics at five locations, with plans for more.
- Residential shelter-based services staffed by Rush.
- Grant-supported testing and vaccine sites.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine first became available, Rush has hosted more than 300 special community clinics and administered 8,000 doses.
Those figures are the result of building trusting relationships with community organizations and overcoming logistical challenges in order to bring vaccine to where it is needed most, said Elizabeth Davis, MD, Medical Director of Community Health Equity at Rush.
“While getting vaccine in arms is important, this effort is also about conversations,” Davis said. “The conversations with people about vaccination are vital. When people at a vaccine event have positive experiences talking to us about vaccines, those conversations get amplified when they get home and talk to friends and family.”
The community vaccination work requires commitment and coordination across the medical center.
“This is an all-Rush effort,” Davis said. “Nurses, community health workers, medical and nursing students, pharmacists, physicians and support staff make this happen. Our work is part of Rush’s mission to improve health equity in Chicago.”
The community-based practices at the schools and the community health workers who work with the mobile vaccine team to connect neighbors with health services are part of the Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement. Nurses and students from the College of Nursing’s Faculty Practice program organize and manage the mobile vaccine events.
Providing COVID-19 vaccine to community sites wouldn’t be possible without the Inpatient Pharmacy staff, Davis said. “They are key to this work and supportive of everything we are trying to do.”
The pharmacy team not only orders, stores, prepares and tracks the vaccine, they supply the special continuous temperature monitoring equipment needed to keep the vaccine at its proper temperature at the mobile sites. The also provide training on vaccine use, preparation, and storage as needed, and they have staffed some of the special events, said Erin Shaughnessy, PharmD, MBA, director of Pharmacy.
“Community vaccine coordination is devilishly complicated,” said Angela Moss, PhD, APRN, assistant dean of Faculty Practice. “It requires thoughtful collaboration across the disciplines and departments, and that how we’ve succeeded.”
For information on where to find a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Illinois, visit the state’s vaccine information page. Chicago residents can find appointment information on the Chicago Department of Public Health website. Chicago Public Schools also offers vaccine information.
Rush offers the COVID-19 vaccine to patients. Learn more at rush.edu/vaccine.