As demand drops, some COVID-19 vaccination sites are closing
Several mass vaccination sites that opened this winter offering hope and drawing thousands of people amid a deadly surge in the COVID-19 pandemic are closing as demand for shots tapers down.
On Thursday, Cook County Health officials retired vaccination locations in Tinley Park, South Holland and River Grove. Those sites will be consolidated with locations in Forest Park, Des Plaines and Matteson, which remain open.
On June 14, the Lake County Health Department will shut down its largest site, at the fairgrounds in Grayslake.
Nearly half of adults in Illinois are fully inoculated, and average daily vaccinations have dropped from a seven-day average of 132,979 on April 12 to 67,485 now, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
Now, the state is focusing on "bringing vaccine to more and more doctor's offices, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, and even directly into the community through mobile clinics that visit workplaces, neighborhood organizations, nonprofits and religious groups," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement.
The Tinley Park Convention Center mass clinic opened Jan. 25 with help from Illinois National Guard troops and Nancy Rivera, Cook County Health's northwest cluster regional operations director.
"I'll never forget how happy so many people were when they came in for their shot, like they had gotten Willy Wonka's golden ticket," Rivera said. "And there were numerous tears of joy, as parents and grandparents were able to get the vaccine and knew how much it meant to them so they could see their loved ones again."
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle attended a "clap-out" celebration at the Tinley Park location and called it "a historic day closing a site that has provided more than 130,000 vaccine doses. Now we shift our efforts to meet people where they are, either geographically or psychologically, to get them vaccinated."
Nationwide, 11.4% of people 18 and older are hesitant about getting vaccinated, U.S. Census Bureau/Centers for Disease Control data shows.
In Illinois, that number is 8.4%. Reasons cited were worries about side effects (50%), mistrust of the vaccinations (39%) and a desire to wait and see if the shots proved safe (38%).
Cook County is targeting 32 communities that raise concerns about high rates of COVID-19 and low rates of vaccination and plans to deploy resources to get shots into arms. Berkeley, Franklin Park, Harwood Heights, Norridge and Northlake are among those on the list.
Lake County will be shifting its efforts to a "hyperlocal focus," health department Executive Director Mark Pfister said in a statement. "This includes our Lake County Health Department Community Health Centers, in doctor's offices across the county, and at local vaccination events, bringing the vaccine via mobile units and pop-up events."
In DuPage County the mass vaccination site at the fairgrounds in Wheaton will remain open.
Kane County officials are "scaling back on dates and hours but have not announced any sites closing as of now," health department spokeswoman Susan Stack said.
On Jan. 25, new virus cases in Illinois averaged about 4,650 a day. Appointments at the Tinley Park site were snapped up immediately.
On Thursday, the seven-day average of new cases was 1,056, and the state expects to drop most COVID-19 restrictions June 11.
"It's really a bittersweet moment," said Anthony Roan, former Cook County Health site director at Tinley Park. "Bitter because of all the friends we've made and people we've met, but sweet because of all the work we've done and accomplished. We fulfilled our mission, and I'll be forever proud of the part we played in this fight against the virus," added Roan, who now manages the Forest Park clinic.