Chicago closes mass vaccination sites, targets localized outreach for COVID vaccine

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The City of Chicago is moving to a new effort to reach COVID vaccine-hesitant populations by making vaccinations as simple and convenient as possible. During the Memorial Day holiday weekend, part of that effort is bringing the shots to where people are out having fun.

While large crowds took to Navy Pier and city beaches, the city set up vaccination events and pop-up sites right where people were gathering for a good time.

It's not how they thought they'd spend the holiday weekend, but in between cookouts and ballgames, some are getting vaccinated.

"It feels good, man," said Deangelo Gardner, who is newly vaccinated. "I'm tired of going in people's homes and they're asking me am I vaccinated. Because I didn't really want it at first, a little iffy about it, but you gotta get it."

Gardner got his Johnson & Johnson dos at a pop-up site in Washington Park.

He went on his lunch break while working as a cable guy and said it was his customers who convinced him to get it.

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"I'm talking to different people who've been vaccinated, and they won me over," Gardner said.

The Washington Park location is one of several pop-up vaccination sites as the city tries to bring the vaccine to where people are enjoying the holiday weekend.

At the Logan Square Farmers Market, shots were being administered in a vaccination bus.

"The goal here is to get to the underserved people in the community and encourage them," Mae Chua, the lead nurse at Washington Park vaccination site.

In Rosemont, party goers danced away the night to a soundtrack of summer that's never sounded sweeter.

"It is so cool to be getting back to this sort of thing, live music. I've missed it so much and everyone's in such a good mood. It's incredible," said Katelyn Weber.

Hundreds turned out on the first weekend of summer, eager to party like its 2019.

"Oh, it feels like summer. It's going to be a good summer," said Kelly Bauer. "We're all vaccinated and having a good time. It's a good summer."

Just over half of Chicago residents have received at least one dose, but the goal is to hit 70% by July 4.

This, as the city moves away from mass vaccination sites after closing Gallagher Way next to Wrigley Field and the walk-in section of the United Center in favor of more targeted and localized outreach.

Saturday's closure at Wrigley Field marked the end of a two-month effort, in partnership with Advocate Aurora Health and the Chicago Cubs, that delivered more than 42,000 vaccine doses to Chicagoans - more than the capacity of Wrigley Field itself, city officials said. Aurora Health will redeploy resources to support hyperlocal, community-based vaccination efforts, including staffing the city's mobile vaccine buses - the Vaccination Station - that allow residents to get vaccinated without leaving their neighborhood.

Patients with appointments scheduled at Gallagher Way after Saturday have been contacted, and their appointments have been relocated to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, less than a mile from Wrigley Field.

Jeannette Banks is homeless and lives in Washington Park. When asked if she is glad she got the shot, she said, "Yeah, I don't want to get sick. I'm already sick with asthma."

More vaccination events are plannned for Memorial Day, including one at North Avenue Beach and another at 31st Street Beach.

For more information on vaccine events coming up, visit chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid19-vaccine/home/calendar-of-events.html.
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