Chicago Heights woman once hesitant of COVID vaccine helps coordinate vaccination clinic

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- Concerns about low vaccinations rates in the south suburbs have officials concerned as we head into the holidays.

While they are pushing for people to get their shots, one woman is coordinating a vaccination clinic with a very personal motive.

"This is where I grew up at, actually, this is the foundation of my Christianity," said Runisia Henry, who is coordinating the vaccination clinic.

Henry's childhood church in Chicago Heights will be preaching a different kind of message this weekend.

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On Saturday, Union Evangelistic Baptist Church will be hosting a community vaccination clinic in partnership with the Cook County Health Department.

"We have canvassing that is going out Friday, so we know that everybody's going to be out shopping and we're going to be amongst those people to give out the flyers to encourage them to get vaccinated," Henry said.

She helped coordinate the clinic because she knew vaccinations rates in Cook County's south suburbs are low.

The tables are already set up in the church basement, and vaccinations for adults and children will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In southern Cook County, only 62.1% of those 12 and up have gotten at least one shot. Cook County also marked a grim milestone Wednesday as the medical examiner confirmed more the 12,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the 20 months since the first fatal case in the county.

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That's why Wednesday, numerous mayors joined Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller to encourage residents to get vaccinated.

"The key is education and right now it's one-to-one education," Miller said. "Coming out to group events is not working, so we need to get to people meet people where they are. Sound cliché in that sense, but it's what works."

"I urge everyone to please get vaccinated," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. "The holidays are upon us which means many of us are spending time with family and friends. This pandemic has claimed thousands of lives in Cook County alone. Protect yourself and your loved ones by choosing to get vaccinated."

Despite her efforts, Henry confessed she has not yet gotten vaccinated.

"I think I'm like a lot of the other people who are still hesitant about it because they keep hearing all these different myths, and then they keep getting all of these -- the information about what has happened to other people," she said.

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However, in her efforts to get other people on board with the vaccine being safe, she has become a believer herself.

"It was a little scary at first, but I'm so excited about getting it," Henry said. "And my mother keeps asking me, 'Are we gonna get it? Are you ready? We're gonna get it together.'"

Earlier this month, the church hosted a clinic, and 10 people showed up and got their shot. As for Saturday, the hope is for 20-30 people, or maybe even more, to take the step of faith and get vaccinated.

All Cook County residents 5 years or older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals 18 and older who have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are now eligible for a single booster dose six months after their last shot. Individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible to receive a single booster dose two months after their initial shot.

For more information on vaccine locations in Cook County, visit, MyShotCookCounty.com
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