All Austin residents over the age of 18 are eligible for COVID vaccines under the city’s Protect Chicago Plus plan and being urged to get the shots as soon as possible at one of two new sites.
At a town hall held over Zoom last weekend, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) called on residents to take advantage of the opportunity and encourage their friends and neighbors to do the same.
“It’s going to save your life. Lord knows we need to be trying to save each other,” she said. “If you would take it, perhaps you can encourage someone else to do the same.”
The Protect Chicago Plus plan was launched to promote equitable distribution of vaccines to the city’s neighborhoods most affected by COVID-19.
Austin is one of the targeted communities because of how many residents have been impacted. In the 60651, 60644 and 60639 Zip codes, 468 COVID-related deaths have been reported, as of March 6, and there have been more than 24,000 cases.
Dr. Wilnise Jasmin of the Chicago Department of Public Health said “equity drives all vaccine distribution throughout the city of Chicago.”
The city’s goal is for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated to receive a vaccine, she said.
“If the area is a healthcare desert, then we stand up temporary sites where people will receive the vaccine.”
The city has set up two temporary vaccine clinics in Austin: one at Amundsen Park and the other at Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School.
The average rate of positivity across Austin’s three largest zip codes (60639, 60644 and 60651) was 2.76% for the week ending March 6, slightly higher than the city’s 2.3% for the same period.
City data shows 11.7% of residents, averaged across those same three zip codes, have received a first vaccine dose, while 12.5% of Chicagoans have received their first vaccine dose, Dr. Jasmin said.
Initial doses at the two new clinics will be equivalent to 10% of Austin’s total population and be administered over a period of four weeks, Dr. Jasmin said.
The clinics, which open this week, will be held in Amundsen Park gym, 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave., and run by The Loretto Hospital, and in the Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School gym, 116 N. Central Ave., and operated by Rush University Medical Center.
LaDarius Curtis, community affairs officer for Rush, said they would be providing the vaccine on Sundays from March 14 through April 18.
The first three weeks of the six-week time frame will be dedicated to first dose appointments, while the second half will be dedicated to second dose appointments, he said.
They expect to have 1,200 doses per day, Curtis said.
Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi of Loretto Hospital said Loretto’s clinic will open March 12 and operate on Fridays and Saturdays through the middle of April.
Patients should not arrive more than 15 minutes before their appointment, to facilitate social distancing, she said.
Loretto was the first hospital in Chicago to administer the COVID vaccine, in December.
Dr. Juvvadi said 90% of Loretto employees have been vaccinated. “Do you know how many of those employees have got COVID-19 since January first? One. One person, because 90% of our employees are vaccinated,” she said.
The CDC has approved three vaccines for use: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.
Moderna and Pfizer’s jabs both require two doses, four and three weeks apart respectively.
Dr. Jasmin said if you can’t make your second dose in the recommended timeframe, the CDC allows a maximum of six weeks to get it. Even if you go past the six-week maximum recommended interval, “we do encourage you to get the second dose, but work very hard to stay within the recommended time interval.”
Patients will be given their second appointment, if they are receiving a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, at their first vaccine appointment.
The Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church, said people who have the opportunity to get vaccinated and don’t are taking a “great risk.”
He caught COVID-19 in the spring and called the experience horrifying, discomforting and scary.
When there was an opportunity to get vaccinated, “I didn’t care which one, Pfizer, Moderna, give me that vaccine.
“I felt I had such a difficult time with COVID-19, I wasn’t sure if I got it again if I would survive it,” the Rev. Acree said.
He called on all members of the Black community to get vaccinated.
“Blacks are dying at three times the rate of any other race. African-Americans certainly don’t have the luxury of being cute, clever or conspiratorial as relates to this crisis,” he said.
“We prayed for the answer. The answer has come. We can’t afford to wait.”
You can sign up for a vaccine appointment through Loretto here, or by calling: (773) 996-7937
You can sign up to receive the vaccine through Rush here, through their MyChart app or by calling (312) 563-0767