Loretto Hospital dispensing hundreds of COVID-19 shots a week

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More than 4,000 people have received COVID-19 shots at The Loretto Hospital – with many more clamoring for the chance to be vaccinated against the deadly disease.

“The challenge, of course, is there continues to be more demand than supply,” Loretto CEO and President George Miller Jr. told West Side faith leaders this week.

Shots are being given Monday through Friday at the hospital, 645 S. Central Ave., and Loretto partners with community groups on Saturdays to administer more shots. Last weekend, 204 people were vaccinated at a West Side church, and another 378 people were recently vaccinated at Malcolm X College.

Loretto was the first site in Chicago to receive and administer the shot; that happened on Dec. 15.

Miller said it’s very easy to be vaccinated, noting it’s similar to getting the annual flu shot. Loretto is administering the Pfizer shot; each person gets two doses, three weeks apart.

“We strongly encourage everyone – especially the African American and Latino community” to get vaccinated, Miller said, acknowledging that many people of color remain suspicious of the health care system in general.

Miller, who’s led Loretto for three years and is the first African American CEO in its 90-year history, said the hospital is focused on righting racial inequity and ensuring everyone has full access to health care.

He and others have repeatedly noted the life expectancy gap between Black and white Chicagoans. Miller cited the stark statistic that people residing in downtown Chicago live 88 years, on average, while West Side residents live just 68 years, on average.

Driving nine miles west of downtown “you lose 20 years of life … and we think that’s wrong,” he said.

Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, asked what he and other members of The Leaders Network can do to help get more people of color vaccinated.

“It’s so disheartening that African Americans are dying at three times the rate as whites,” yet whites are aggressively getting the shots, even coming from the suburbs, to be vaccinated, Acree said. “And we’re sitting on the sidelines.”

Camille Lilly, Loretto’s chief external affairs officer and a state representative, said the hospital vaccinates up to 100 people daily with their partners. “We need each and every one of you to work with us to get your partnerships and networks part of our system, so we can get everyone vaccinated.”

To make a vaccination appointment, call (773) 996-7937. Those currently eligible to get the COVID-19 shot are: frontline essential workers and people living at residential congregate care sites who live and/or work in Chicago; people 65 years of age and older who live and/or work in Chicago; and people 65 years of age and older who receive ongoing medical care in Chicago.

Loretto continues to provide free COVID-19 testing. Since the hospital started offering tests in April 2020, more than 25,000 people have been tested. About 100 tests are done a day, down from the peak of 400 a day at one point.

Last week, Loretto moved the testing from a tent outside to inside the hospital. The testing is available on a walk-up basis, from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, regardless of symptoms, exposure, or insurance status. Those arriving for COVID tests should enter the marked door to the right of the hospital’s main and emergency room entrances, on Flournoy Street.

Rush University Medical Center is offering free testing at seven West Side churches and expects to do so at least through the summer.

Tests are available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this week through Saturday, Feb. 13 at People’s Church of the Harvest COGIC, 3570 W. 5th Avenue; Feb. 16 through Feb. 19 at New Landmark MB Church, 2700 W. Wilcox St.; and Feb. 24 through Feb. 27 at Greater Rock MB Church, 718 S. Independence Blvd.

In addition to providing COVID-19 testing, Rush is also helping link people to services if they’re experiencing food and/or housing security or need a primary care doctor.

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