Rush Medical Center celebrates 100K vaccinations, reaches milestone in fight against COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Medical staff and volunteers cheered as one nurse at Rush University Medical Center administered a shot to surpass the 100,000 COVID-19 vaccinations mark.

"We're really excited [Friday]," said Dr. Paul Casey, chief medical officer at Rush. "I think it shows the progress we've made, that we're up to three million vaccinations a day as a state. And I think we'll continue to drive forward on that as we move throughout the rest of the year."

Dieter and Elissa Schmitz, two of the hundreds of people who received their second doses Friday, sang praises for the staff and volunteers at Rush.

"There is a light at the end of this tunnel," Elissa said. "I am so grateful for the vaccine, for science, for the healthcare heroes that are all making this possible."

Marquetta Ratliff also received her second dose, while celebrating a 100-related milestone of her own.

"I did the bariatric surgery here at Rush, and as of today, I have passed the 100 mark. I have lost 100 pounds," Ratliff said. "I love this hospital."

Among those giving out vaccine doses and guiding patients through the hospital, several volunteers spoke with ABC7 about their reasons for contributing to the fight.

Rev. Bobby D. Smith has been volunteering three days per week, starting at 6 a.m. each day, after watching the vaccine cause "tragedy of the West Side of Chicago. Retired Nurse Claire Schafer came back to the hospital where she started her career "just to help out."

Dr. Casey described himself as "cautiously optimistic" about the current state of the fight against COVID-19. He is worried though about the new virus variants, particularly with a major uptick in cases and positivity in nearby Michigan.

"I truly think it's a race against time with the vaccine, where we really want to encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as possible," Dr. Casey said.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.