Vaccination pop-up gets shots into arms of CPS staffers in Uptown

“We just knew that we had to step in and help in any way we could,” said Suzanne Pham, Weiss Hospital’s medical director of COVID-19 response.

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Will Cordero, a special education classroom assistant at William C. Goudy Public School in Uptown, receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Weiss Memorial Hospital on the North Side, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

With Chicago Public Schools closed for President’s Day, an Uptown hospital held a pop-up event to vaccinate up to 120 teachers and staff members on their day off.

Weiss Hospital’s newly launched COVID-19 Community Clinic specifically offered the shots to CPS teachers and employees who live in the Uptown area. During the event, hospital staff and local elected officials lauded the effort — and the frontline education workers.

“We recognize that in the city of Chicago, there are over 142,000 members on the education side of our community. And we just knew that we had to step in and help in any way we could,” said Suzanne Pham, the hospital’s medical director of COVID-19 response.

The vaccination of teachers and school staffers emerged as a key issue in the months-long battle over reopening schools after the Chicago Teachers Union argued that its members shouldn’t be forced to return to the classroom without being inoculated.

Under the agreement between the school district and the Chicago Teachers Union that prevented a second teachers strike in as many years, no union members are required to resume in-person learning without having the opportunity to be vaccinated. The city is now reserving 1,500 doses for CPS workers each week that it plans to distribute at four locations in the near future.

The CPS staffers who were vaccinated at Weiss Monday will be able to get their second vaccination dose on March 6, according to a document circulated by hospital officials.

State Rep. Margaret Croke, a Chicago Democrat who addressed the media at Weiss along with other elected officials, claimed “teachers and parents want their kids back in school — and safe and healthy.” However, the issue of reopening schools amid the pandemic remains a controversial topic.

Dr. Clement Rose, an internist at Weiss, noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has said vaccinations aren’t mandatory for a school to safely reopen, though he acknowledged that his wife is a teacher and was vaccinated last week. He added that she’s now “spreading the word to her colleagues” about the initiative at Weiss and other pop-ups CPS has “worked out with some other agencies.” 

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