As demand for vaccinations wanes locally and across the country, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle came together with Cook County Health (CCH) leaders on Thursday, July 15, at Provident Hospital to discuss the county’s vaccine strategy and the COVID-19 delta variant.
“As the delta variant gains momentum here in Cook County, I want to sound the alarm to residents who have not yet been vaccinated to please go get vaccinated,” said President Preckwinkle. “We continue to see our Black and Brown communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and this trend will continue if we don’t get more residents vaccinated. Furthermore, communities where less than 50 percent of the population are vaccinated are at an even greater risk of spreading the virus.”
The delta variant, which was first identified in March, accounts for more than half of the cases in the U.S. and is taking hold here in Illinois and throughout Cook County. This variant, which mutated from the original strain, is highly contagious and causes more severe illness. Unvaccinated individuals continue to be most at-risk for serious illness, hospitalization and death.
In suburban Cook County, 1.3 million residents of suburban Cook County have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Cook County Health has provided more than 864,000 vaccine doses. More than 70% of those doses were administered at one of the health system’s mass vaccination sites.
“We have accomplished our first goal—vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19 with a large-scale strategy, but our work continues,” said CCH CEO Israel Rocha Jr. “However, there is no doubt that demand for vaccine is waning. Our largest mass vaccination sites, which were each giving out nearly 4,000 doses daily at their peak, are now seeing 100 to 150 people each day.”
Due to decreased demand, CCH’s three remaining mass vaccination sites will be sunset. The last day of the mass vaccination sites in Forest Park and Des Plaines will be Tuesday, July 20 and the last day of the Matteson site will be Wednesday, July 21. Every person age 12 and older who wants to be vaccinated can get their shot at any one of CCH’s hospitals or health centers across Cook County. The vaccine is free. Neither citizenship status nor insurance are required to get the shot. No one will be turned away. Walk-in hours at all CCH locations will be 8:30 am – 4:00 pm Monday through Friday.
Cook County is evolving its strategy to redeploy resources to support hyperlocal, community-based vaccination initiatives. Specific focus will continue to be placed on the 32 municipalities identified by the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability index and the COVID-19 community vulnerability index. These communities, primarily in the west and south suburbs, are receiving additional resources through a variety of tactics to address vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccine access.
“I understand there is a lot of mistrust about the vaccine. I want people to know that this vaccine is safe. It does not contain any live virus in it. It cannot alter your DNA. It cannot impact your fertility,” said CCH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Claudia Fegan. “We’ve been taking vaccines for years. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are built on new molecular technology that we have been developing for years which makes them safer and more effective than any vaccine we’ve used before. I wish the vaccines we use for measles, mumps, rubella and the flu were as effective as the vaccines we have now for COVID-19. This vaccine is a life-changer.”
CCH and CCDPH have already offered 330 pop-up, mobile and priority sites across the region to administer more than 55,000 doses to individuals in communities where they live and work. More than 1,800 in-home vaccinations have also been given.
“We know there are communities with low rates of vaccination, particularly those in the southland. Many of these communities have already been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, CCDPH Co-lead and Senior Medical Officer. “While this work will be challenging, we will be relentless in bringing opportunities for vaccination to those communities and work with partners who are trusted messengers to talk about how COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”
For the latest information about Cook County vaccination sites, visit myshotcookcounty.comor call 833-308-1988.