Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Health medical experts and local religious leaders gathered on December 2 to discuss the importance of vaccinations during the winter and holiday seasons.

“With the holiday season upon us and cold weather about to set in, it’s essential that everyone get their shot,” President Preckwinkle said. “And if you’ve gotten vaccinated, get your booster.”

“Our doctors have said the vaccine is safe and our faith leaders say it is an action you can do completely within your practice of religion,” Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha said. “We are battling the virus of misinformation. Our goal is to empower you with the information to be safe.”

More than 73 percent of residents that fall under the jurisdiction of the Cook County Department of Public Health have had one dose of the vaccine. Yet, only 57 percent have completed the 2-dose vaccine series.  The second dose, and subsequent booster dose, of the Pfizer and Moderna shots significantly increase the vaccines’ efficacy and the body’s ability to defend against the COVID-19 virus.

That’s why Cook County officials gathered with area religious leaders, who expressed their support for the vaccine as a matter of science and faith.

“We’ve come a long way and with this new variant, we don’t want to go back,” said Apostle Carl White of Victory Christian International Ministries. “Let’s work together, let’s work with our health officials and get vaccinated.”

“There is a song that we sing at this time of Hanukkah that begins ‘Banu choshech legaresh,’ which means, we came to banish darkness. In our hands we hold light and fire. Each of us is a small light but together we are tremendously bright,” said Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom of Chicago. “The great darkness of COVID has descended across this globe, yet in our hands, we hold the light and fire of vaccines that can banish this darkness.”

“The Catholic teaching is very clear. There is no reasonable grounds but for physical allergy that a person should not get the vaccine,” said Rev. William Grogan of the Archdiocese of Chicago. “This is the way God acts in the creation.”

“The preservation of life is one of the highest objectives of the religion of Islam,” said Sheikh Hassan Aly, Iman of The Mecca Center. “Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used the analogy of being all in one boat. ‘Behavior that will sink our boat, should not be met with silence. The wellbeing of all of us is at stake.’”

“The Church looks at vaccinating against COVID-19 as an incredible expression of love for our families and each person we encounter in our daily lives,” said Father Stamatios Sfikas of Annunciation Cathedral. “Our Lord loves us so much that he gifted us free will. How we use that free will expresses how much we can for one another, and ultimately, God.”

“The second greatest Commandment is that you love your neighbor as yourself,” said Pastor Barry Tidwell of Rain or Shine Baptist Church. “How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? Get vaccinated. It is so important in this season of giving that we give the gift of love, which ultimately gives the gift of life.”

With the first case of the omicron variant detected in the United States on December 1, the importance of being vaccinated and taking preventive measures continues to grow. Cook County Health’s Dr. Gregory Huhn, the hospital’s vaccine coordinator, and Cook County Department of Public Health co-lead Dr. Rachel Rubin, spoke about remaining vigilant.

“The omicron variant is in the United States, and we should act as if it is in Illinois or Cook County already,” Dr. Rubin said. “Until we get to a much higher number of individuals, not only county-wide but within each community in the county, we are at risk for the spread of omicron or the next variant.”

“The world, our community, our loves ones, are counting on us to help us move past this,” Dr. Huhn said. “As we embrace the meaning of the holidays, the season of caring for each, let’s find a renewed energy to pull us through this pandemic.”

Everyone age 5 and older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are safe and effective. To find a vaccine near you, visit or call 833-308-1988.


Media Contact: 
Kate Hedlin
Communications Manager