IL COVID vaccine volunteers help disabled and homebound people get vaccinated

ITASCA, Ill. (WLS) -- Many patients at the Itasca Park District vaccine clinic have been waiting for weeks and months for the opportunity to get vaccinated. Most have disabilities, making it a challenge for them to get appointments and transportation to get the shot. That's why they set up this clinic specifically for them.

"For our community it's difficult for a lot of people to find a spot and location to get this," said Linda Smarta, executive director of the National Association for Down Syndrome.

They vaccinated more than 1,100 patients there on Tuesday. Most came with caregivers to help them. They have set up in the gym, and also the parking lot for drive-up vaccinations.

But there are many others who are not able to make it to a clinic like this. Homebound patients need someone to come to them with the vaccine.

Bret Ruiz has been trying for months to help his elderly wheelchair-bound roommate get vaccinated.

"My friend is like a prisoner at home, afraid to go out because of their age and health problems they are at a higher risk," he said.

Candice Choi has helped hundreds of patients in that situation get vaccinated. With the vaccine becoming more widely available, her group, Chicago Vaccine Angels is now focusing on reaching homebound patients.

"We are trying to help the elderly and those who are unable to leave the home," said Choi.

Vaccine clinics are full of volunteers helping patients on site and now Emergency Room doctor Halleh Akbarnia has put together a list of 1,600 volunteers willing to go wherever they are needed.

"There's a lot of people trying to do the work but there is just a lot of people who need help still," said Akbarnia.

At the Itasca clinic, they were originally planning on using the one shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine but they were able to secure the Pfizer vaccine instead, so all these patients will be coming back for their second shot on May 11.
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