On Sunday, 1,047 residents of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood were greeted with smiles and sent home with cheers after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a special Rush University Medical Center satellite clinic.
With a crew of more than 80 volunteers, Rush inoculated Austin residents ages 18 years and older during the first of six weeks of the clinic, part of the city of Chicago’s Protect Chicago Plus initiative to bring the vaccine to 15 neighborhoods, including Austin, that have been most burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic based on the city’s COVID-19 vulnerability index.
“I was a little nervous, honestly, about getting the vaccination,” says Austin resident Danielle Kelly. After her neighbor told her about Sunday’s clinic, she decided to make an appointment, which was easier than she expected. “The person I talked to was so kind and polite, and coming into this facility I was not met with any attitude or resistance. It was warmth, love and acceptance, which helped to ease my fears.”
Now that she has the vaccine, she says she feels relieved. “I’m not worried about, ‘Oh my gosh, if I get COVID, am I going to pass it on to someone else, someone who is at risk?’ ”
Rush and Loretto Hospital are operating the clinics in partnership with the city, the Catalyst Schools, PCC Community Wellness, Austin Coming Together, the Leaders Network and the neighborhood’s aldermen, Emma Mitts (37th Ward), Jason Ervin (28th Ward) and Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward).
“Bringing the vaccine to the neighborhoods disproportionally hard hit by COVID-19 is vital to the health of the entire community and central to our mission at Rush,” says Angelique Richard, PhD, RN, senior vice president of hospital operations for Rush University Medical Center and chief nursing officer for the Medical Center and Rush University System for Health. “Over 80 volunteers came out today to make this happen, and they will again in the coming weeks, which shows how committed they are and how important this effort is to the Rush team.”
Rush's Austin clinic will continue to provide vaccines on Sundays through April 18, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School, 116 N. Central Ave. Loretto’s clinic is available on Fridays and Saturdays through April 17 at Amundson Park, 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave.
An appointment is required; no walk-ins are being accepted. Austin residents can schedule a Sunday appointment by calling (312) 563-0767; or schedule a Friday or Saturday appointment at the Loretto clinic by calling (773) 996-7937.
Vaccines are free and no health insurance is required. People will be asked to attest they live in the Austin neighborhood.
Rush’s clinic is equipped to vaccinate 3,600 Austin residents in all, says Kerem Korkmaz, MSN, RN, CENP, vice president, patient care services, Rush University Medical Center. First doses will be given the first three Sundays of the clinic. Once residents receive the first dose, they will be scheduled automatically to get their second dose three Sundays later.
“When given the opportunity to stand up this clinic we gladly stepped forward,” Korkmaz says. “We’ve had a successful first day, not just logistically, but also in bringing the Rush culture into our clinic. It’s been evident in the experience of our patients as well as our volunteers. This has been a very affirming experience for everyone involved, and we’ve received such a positive response from the community we’re here to serve.”
Audrey Boyle was one of those appreciative residents. “If you have the option to get vaccinated, just do it, because it helps everyone, including yourself and your family,” she says. “Getting vaccinated makes everyone safer. It’s really great to know that I’m going to be able to hug my mother.”