CHICAGO — A hospital on the West Side was the first in Chicago to administer the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.
Five health care workers, including emergency room nurses, rolled up their sleeves and received shots at Loretto Hospital, which is located in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, a largely Black enclave that has been hit hard by COVID-19.
Applause followed each shot.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady to administer the vaccine.
“You can see and feel the buzz of excitement because of this historic day,” Lightfoot said. “This is truly an exciting and important moment in our city’s history.”
The first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine arrived at Illinois Strategic National Stockpile Monday morning.
Chicago, along with Cook County and Lake Counties, all received separate shipments — bringing the state’s total doses to about 109,000 for this first round of vaccines.
Elmhurst Hospital plans to receive 2,000 doses on Thursday.
The vaccinations come as Illinois has seen more than 100 deaths from COVID-19 for seven consecutive days.
The CEO of Loretto Hospital spoke to WGN on Monday, showing excitement after being chosen by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to be the first hospital to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Marina Del Rios with Illinois Unidos Collaborative, was the first to receive the vaccination at Loretto Hospital.
“As the day started, I was already thinking about people that I’ve lost,” Dr. Del Rios said.
The hospital’s CEO says choosing Loretto as the first to administer the vaccine is sending an important message to the West Side community affected by the virus.
“It’s primarily because of the fact of the disparities that exist in the African American and Latino-x communities across the land and certainly here in Chicago,” said George Miller, Jr., President and CEO of Loretto Hospital.
Mayor Lightfoot acknowledged the deep-seated distrust among many, dating back decades, in Chicago’s African-American and Hispanic communities, when it comes to the past transgressions of doctors and researchers.
A recent pew research center poll showing more than half of African-Americans questioned say they will not get the vaccine.
“In order to overcome that hurdle which we understand has historical underpinnings and know why the challenge is great,” Lightfoot said. “This is a challenge we must conquer.”
The mayor pleaded for residents to still take precautions and wear masks.
In the suburbs, VA hospitals that have been affected by coronavirus through the pandemic started vaccinations.
At Hines VA Tuesday, a Gulf War era Army veteran became the first Illinois vet to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Personally, I do think it’s another step to take to be able to serve my country go make sure that we stop this pandemic, “said Melissa Ann Klocker.
She served the U.S. during the Persian Gulf era and also served in Kosovo. A car accident left the 48-year-old in a wheelchair.
It’s just another responsibility I have to try and stop this so we can continue moving forward,” she said.