Feds ask city for records of Loretto vaccinations at South Suburban church

A hospital executive’s suburban church was the recipient of hundreds of shots at a time when supply was limited and Chicago’s West Side was being ravaged by COVID-19.

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Loretto Hospital

Federal investigators want to learn more about an event that gave COVID shots meant for West Side residents to members of a South Suburban church.

Sun-Times file

Federal investigators looking into The Loretto Hospital’s problematic COVID-19 vaccination practices are seeking records for an event in which scarce city-designated vaccines were given to members of the hospital chief executive’s South Suburban church.

A federal criminal grand jury subpoena, issued to the city last month and obtained by the Sun-Times through an open-records request, shows that the feds requested documents related to two events in February in which Loretto took vaccine that was designated for the city’s West Side residents — particularly the Austin community hit hard by the virus — and instead gave shots to more than 200 members of Valley Kingdom Ministries International Church in Oak Forest. 

The Nov. 10 subpoena, part of a previously reported federal investigation, specifically asks the city for documents related to vaccines administered at the church, any visits to Valley Kingdom or events held there by city officials and any instances of outreach or education about the shots conducted by the city at the suburban site.

Loretto Chief Executive George Miller attended the Oak Forest church at the time. The suburban events led to outrage in the community and at City Hall as they also followed reports by Block Club Chicago that the same city-supplied vaccines to Loretto intended for poor communities of color were administered to people at Trump Tower. 

The scandal was also an embarrassment to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who staged a media event with Miller at Loretto for the city’s very first vaccinations just over a year ago. City officials declined to comment. 

The fallout led to Loretto temporarily losing access to COVID vaccines, the departure of a top hospital executive, a two-week suspension for Miller and a federal investigation. Hospital officials deferred questions to an outside spokeswoman who declined to comment.

In addition to the city subpoena, the Sun-Times obtained two earlier subpoenas, also through open records requests, sent by federal officials to the Illinois Department of Public Health in May and September. The May subpoena requested vaccination status for more than 100 individuals who received shots from Loretto, though names were redacted by the state. 

Earlier this year, Loretto released an audit that said about 99% of the 15,700 COVID shots administered by the hospital went to eligible residents as determined by city guidelines.

Contributing: Jon Seidel

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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