Mayor Lightfoot Visits COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic in Austin.

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot visited a new Protect Chicago Plus vaccination clinic over the weekend – one of three new neighborhood sites launched last week, located in Austin and Archer Heights. The City of Chicago’s Protect Chicago Plus initiative works to ensure that vaccination rates reflect the demographics of the city, and expand vaccine access and uptake in Black and Latinx communities that have been most affected by the pandemic.

The three clinics opened this weekend are being managed by Lawndale Christian Health Center, Loretto Hospital, and Rush University Medical Center. With support from community-based organizations and local leaders, they are working together to share information and connect neighborhood residents with appointments.

“Austin is dealing with three pandemics – violence, systemic racism, and COVID-19,” said Heather Bergdahl, chief transformation officer at Loretto Hospital. “For us to be able to support this community by administering thousands of vaccines in just our first few days is a huge win. It’s so important that we’re coming to them and helping Austin residents return to a new normal.”

“There is a lot of talk about vaccine hesitancy, but we are encouraged to see that we are filling slots for appointments. Our goal is to rebuild trust with residents so that vaccination becomes the norm and not the exception in our communities,” said Dr. David Ansel, senior vice president of community health equity at Rush University Medical Center. “It’s tremendously important that we bring vaccine into the communities that are both high risk for COVID-19 and have less access to care, not everyone can go to mass vaccination sites in different parts of the city, so bringing access to the heart of the community is a smart approach to helping raise vaccination numbers to bring down the spread of the virus.”

Austin Coming Together is leading community education and engagement at both Austin locations.

“This clinic is not only about the resource of the vaccine being brought to Austin, but also the trickledown effect of what resources and acknowledgement from community partners and government can do for the community’s esteem,” said Jai Jones, engagement specialist at Austin Coming Together. “Community resources such as the vaccine get people talking and it helps builds better community between neighbors.”

In Archer Heights, a new Protect Chicago Plus clinic run by Lawndale Christian Health Center will administer vaccines for the next six weeks, supported by the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) to ensure community members are being connected to vaccine appointments.

“Lawndale Christian Health Center is grateful to partner with the City of Chicago to continue our mission to address healthcare disparities – to date we’ve already vaccinated thousands of South and West Side residents,” said Alyssa Sianghio, vice president, external affairs and strategy at Lawndale Christian Health Center. “The Protect Chicago Plus program has provided the vaccines we need to continue that work in the Archer Heights community, which has faced a disproportionately high share of the burden of COVID-19. We are looking forward to engaging our community in bringing this needed resource to those who need it most.”

Additionally, special vaccine events took place at Gage Park and Belmont Cragin on Saturday, March 13. In partnership with Friend Health, Southwest Organizing Project and Catholic Charities, 500 people in Gage Park were vaccinated at St. Gall Catholic Church. Community outreach was focused particularly on those most vulnerable that would not have had access through online registration processes. In partnership with Belmont Assembly of God and Prime Care, Protect Chicago Plus also successfully vaccinated 500 people at a special event in Belmont Cragin.

Vaccinations are offered at no cost and by appointment only to people who live in these communities. I.D. and insurance are not required but an address will need to be provided on the day of the appointment. For the latest information on Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, please visit www.chicago.gov/covidvax

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