Red Shield Center Hosts Chicago’s Vaccination Clinic on Wheels
For Guy, it was personal. His cousin died of COVID-19 just days before Guy attended the Vaccination Station event at The Salvation Army Red Shield Center in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. He lives in the community and saw a sign about the chance to get vaccinated each Thursday in May on a CTA bus that’s been transformed into a vaccination clinic on wheels, a special project of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) in coordination with the CTA.
“I’m very happy. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” Guy said, after getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine (participants are also offered the Pfizer vaccine). “A lot of my family has been affected by COVID, so I figured it could affect me too. There’s no excuse not to get vaccinated.”
The Vaccination Station events are part of the City of Chicago’s Protect Chicago Plus, its plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to communities most impacted by the pandemic, especially Black and Latinx residents. Englewood residents currently have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the City – below 30 percent.
Protect Chicago Plus works with more than 40 community-based organizations in an effort to provide consistent and reliable access to COVID-19 vaccine in communities where vaccination uptake is behind. Turning a CTA bus into a vaccination clinic made it easy to transport to whatever neighborhood or site needs vaccines most. About a dozen vaccination events have been hosted on the bus so far, and they have been well received.
“We want vaccine to be easy for Englewood residents to access and make sure everyone can find an appointment close to home,” said Christine Pundavela, from the City of Chicago. “By dedicating resources – like the Vaccination Station – and vaccine supply to increase vaccine uptake in the hardest hit communities, we also reduce COVID-19 spread across all of Chicago and can reopen more quickly and safely.”
DeShawn Johnson (pictured left), Community Center Director at the Red Shield Center, has seen the low rates of vaccination in the community firsthand. “Our seniors are mostly vaccinated, but the younger crowd isn’t getting vaccinated at the same rate,” he said, adding that there’s a big drop in the numbers for those over the age of 30. “Some are fearful of the vaccine, but for most it’s just not a concern for them.” He tries to encourage the younger people in their congregation to get the vaccine, and after attending today’s event, he’ll be able to tell them he’s vaccinated himself.
Justin, another Englewood resident at the event, took just one bus to get to the event and was grateful it was so convenient. COVID-19 has messed up his work schedule and kept him cooped up inside, so he was grateful for the shot that will offer him some hope of normalcy. “I’ll be less stressed about getting COVID,” he said.
Cleo was a bit less eager, but grateful just the same. “They’re eventually going to make it mandatory, so I might as well get it over with,” he said.
The Protect Chicago Plus team is grateful for any motivation that will help get people vaccinated. Bethany Hand, from the City of Chicago, said they’ve heard from many people who say they’ll get vaccinated eventually, but just aren’t prioritizing it yet. “One person told us they were driving by, saw the bus, and decided to finally do it,” she said. As Chicago seeks to get all her residents protected from COVID-19, this is music to their ears.
Climb aboard the Vaccination Station every Thursday in May from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the parking lot of The Salvation Army Red Shield Center (945 W. 69th Street, Chicago). Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines available. Walk-ups accepted, but you can also make an appointment online at getvaxchi.chicago.gov. No health insurance or government ID required.