Taking the Vaccination Effort to the Streets

Jun 21, 2021

After a year in which dining rooms became offices, couches became church pews, and living rooms became gyms, it seems only fitting that all it took to create a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in a west side neighborhood earlier this week was a couple folding chairs in the shade of a small tree.

Medical staff from Lawndale Christian Health Center rode along with the Mobile Outreach team, following The Salvation Army’s Mobile Feeding Unit that travels throughout Chicago every day providing a hot meal to those who need one at more than 25 locations. They visit homeless encampments and neighborhoods where people are barely making ends meet.

The team usually hands out soup and a cool beverage, as well as an offer to connect individuals to more long-term assistance, such as housing services or our program to combat drug or alcohol use disorder. On this day they were also offering a chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Anna Ji, a physician assistant with Lawndale Christian Health and the one administering the Johnson & Johnson shots, said that most of the people they talked with were already vaccinated. A few weren’t – and weren’t interested in even discussing it. But the few on the fence or who simply hadn’t taken the time to get vaccinated were the ones she and her team were there to reach.

At one of the Uptown stops, she talked with a man who said he had a strong enough immune system that he didn’t need the vaccine. “But after some conversation he finally said, ‘Oh, I’ll just do it.’ And I vaccinated him right then,” Anna said.

At the Madison and Albany stop, Shirley decided today was the day to get vaccinated. “I just haven’t done it yet, and I need it,” she said. Brian, another passerby who decided to get the shot, said he finally felt like getting one. And Ronnie, who learned about this chance to get vaccinated at the VA, said, “This is a good thing.”

Anna and her team also conduct primary care visits two days a week at the Freedom Center campus, where the Mobile Feeding Unit is housed. They have administered vaccinations there multiple times. “On the first day, we did almost 100 vaccinations,” she said. 

Andrew Ward, one of the Mobile Outreach team, said they have also offered COVID testing on their route at various points. “The last time we offered shots, two to three weeks ago, we got another seven people vaccinated.” For a virus that has taken so much from so many, from an organization dedicated to Doing the Most Good, every one of those people now protected makes a world of difference.

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