Cook County opens up two walk-in mass vaccination sites
Cook County opened up two COVID-19 mass vaccination sites for walk-ins without appointments Wednesday as part of a pilot project to accelerate inoculations, particularly for underserved groups, health department officials said at a briefing.
The two sites are at the Tinley Park Convention Center and in Matteson.
"Come on down," Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha said. "You can actually come in, walk in. We welcome you. Join us. Come get vaccinated, and if that works we are hoping very quickly to continue to our other sites."
Officials also said they anticipate Johnson & Johnson's vaccine will return soon after federal experts complete a review, but it will come with guidance to prevent adverse side effects in vulnerable populations.
The J&J vaccine was put on pause April 13 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration after six cases of serious blood clots in women, including one fatality.
"We anticipate hearing from the CDC and the FDA later this week that the vaccine will be put back into use but probably with some restrictions and certainly a warning about the potential, very rare complication of blood clots." said Dr. Rachel Rubin, colead of the Cook County Department of Public Health.
"Many people are asking for the J&J one-dose vaccine, and we will continue to offer it once it is approved for use again," she said.
The two other vaccines, by Moderna and Pfizer, require two doses weeks apart, which makes the J&J version easier to administer.
Getting more shots into arms, especially in minority communities, is crucial, Cook health experts said. The county has identified 32 communities that raise concerns about high rates of COVID-19 and low rates of vaccinations.
Berkeley, Franklin Park, Harwood Heights, Norridge and Northlake are among those on the list.
"Black and Latinx residents have gotten sick and succumbed to COVID-19 at alarming, alarming rates, much higher rates than our white residents," Preckwinkle said.
To rectify the gap, the county is proposing more mobile vaccination programs and efforts such as the pilot program offering walk-in shots. The walk-in shots are available to every Illinoisan 16 or older.
Asked about logistics at Matteson and Tinley Park, Rocha said all current appointments will be kept and the staff will be pacing walk-in traffic.
"We'll have controls to be sure we do it safely and have the vaccine on hand. If we run out or run short, we'll let you know," Rocha said. "We don't want people waiting needlessly."
The county picked Tinley Park, which opened in January, because it's the oldest mass vaccination site and residents have had opportunities to access shots there. The Matteson location at 4647 Promenade Way opened April 14 and is not dealing with second doses yet, so it can accommodate more traffic, officials said.