clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bringing the COVID-19 vaccine directly to public housing senior residents is a great idea

Chicago and Cook County are doing just that. Ellyson Carter, 63, is among those who signed up despite being “a little apprehensive. But I want to be a part of what makes this nation heal.”

A worried Yvonne Johnson braces for her vaccination at the CHA’s Alfreda Burnett Duster Apartments, where COVID-19 shots were being administered as part of the city of Chicago’s senior outreach efforts.
A worried Yvonne Johnson braces for her vaccination at the CHA’s Alfreda Burnett Duster Apartments, where COVID-19 shots were being administered as part of the city of Chicago’s senior outreach efforts.
Mark Brown / Sun-Times

Unlike many of the people who are reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Yvonne Johnson had no particular concerns about the vaccine itself.

What Johnson doesn’t like are needles or shots of any variety, the vaccine just happening to be one version.

As a result, the 66-year-old had not been among the many senior citizens vying for a vaccination over the past month.

“I was running from it scared, until my daughter told me I need to take it,” Johnson told me at the CHA’s Alfreda Barnett Duster Apartments, where she and dozens of her fellow residents had gathered to be vaccinated.

Smart daughter.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the need for government officials to make it easier especially for older people to access vaccine appointments, the online competition being unworkable for many of them. That’s before you even get to mobility issues.

One recommendation I passed along from the Jane Addams Senior Caucus was that we start taking the vaccine directly to senior public housing residents instead of making them find their own.

What I didn’t realize is that the Cook County Housing Authority already started doing that in the senior public housing buildings it operates in the suburbs.

And within a few days of my story, the city began offering the same service at Chicago Housing Authority senior buildings, nothing to do with me because we know government doesn’t respond that quickly.

I still think the vaccine rollout has been messy at best, but I wanted to make sure you know there are encouraging signs like this where our government officials are taking a sensible approach and getting something accomplished.

The Alfreda Barnett Duster Apartments, 150 S. Campbell St., are about a mile west of the United Center, which we learned Friday will begin serving as a mass vaccination site March 10. That’s another welcome development that arguably is overdue.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot cautioned there are still 250,000 seniors in Chicago yet to get their first dose of the vaccine, and she said suburban Cook County brings the total to 500,000.

Even with the federally supported United Center site supplying an additional 6,000 vaccine doses a day, we still have a long ways to go.

It’s going to take a continued push on multiple fronts to put the pandemic behind us. Encouraging people to take the vaccine remains an important part of that.

As of Friday, the county — working in cooperation with Walgreen’s — had made a first vaccine visit to all 12 of its senior housing buildings and started on a second round. The city — which is using the CIMPAR medical group to administer the vaccine — had reached 14 of its 46 senior developments on a first visit.

An average of 55 percent of residents and staff have agreed to accept the vaccine, said Anne Lehocky, the CHA’s assistant director for clinical services.

Lehocky said many who turned it down indicated they already had been vaccinated elsewhere, not out of hesitation over the vaccine.

Sylvia Green rolls up her sleeve for Walgreen’s pharmacy student Ghassan Ayyad at the Victor Walchirk Apartments in Evanston as part of Cook County’s effort to inoculate public housing residents against COVID-19.
Sylvia Green rolls up her sleeve for Walgreen’s pharmacy student Ghassan Ayyad at the Victor Walchirk Apartments in Evanston as part of Cook County’s effort to inoculate public housing residents against COVID-19.
Mark Brown / Sun-Times

At the Victor Walchirk Apartments in Evanston, 59-year-old Sylvia Green told me she considered it “a blessing” that the vaccine had been brought to her, instead of her searching for it, not that she had planned on doing so.

“At first, I said I wasn’t,” Green said. “I was kind of leery. I hope I don’t have side effects.”

But Green seemed none the worse for wear minutes after getting her shot when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle visited to inspect the program.

Back at the CHA’s Duster Apartments, property manager Louiza Williamson said 54 of 119 people had signed up to receive the vaccine that day.

One of them was Ellyson Carter, 63, who was “a little apprehensive. But I want to be a part of what makes this nation heal.”

Well put.

Carter also said he wished “it was the vaccine you only have to take one shot.” No such luck, but maybe by the time they get started at the United Center.

As Johnson was called for her injection, I realized from the look in her eyes she really was nervous about the needle.

“Just don’t hurt me,” she told the woman giving the shot.

Moments later, it was over. And she agreed with me: You hardly even feel the pinch.