Bakari Blackburn

Bakari Blackburn gets a Pfizer vaccine shot from nurse Melissa Ontanon in a CTA bus converted to a Chicago Department of Public Health mobile vaccination station at William H. Ray School, Saturday morning, May 22. 

Vaccines were available to anyone 12 and older at Ray Elementary School this past Saturday, May 22. A repurposed CTA bus was used for nurses to give the vaccine to everyone attending and the line into the vehicle was long, filled with people anxiously awaiting their shots.

Danita Crawford, who stood in line with her daughter, Lauren, said she found out about the event on the Nextdoor app. “I think I saw one of the aldermen post about this,” she said. “We decided we wanted her to get vaccinated. It's really convenient for it to be here.” 

Crawford says Lauren decided that she wanted to get the vaccine as she began applying for summer jobs. 

Volunteers included Ray staff and community members. Diane Salk, who is a pre-kindergarten teacher for the deaf, learned about the event from a Chicago Teachers Union email and thought it would be great to help out. She received her own vaccine back in March. “I just want people to be safe and not suffer anymore from COVID-19 and want kids to be safely back in schools,” she said.

After receiving their shot, people were encouraged to sit under city-provided tents for at least 15 minutes to make sure they didn’t have any reactions. Volunteers then passed out reusable tote bags filled with masks, sanitizer, and an “I’ve been vaccinated” button.

Fourteen-year-old Bakari Blackburn, a Walt Disney Magnet School student and Hyde Park/Bronzeville resident, was brought by his dad to William H. Ray Elementary School early Saturday morning to get his first shot, and ended up being the first person in line.

As he waited in line, Bakari — whose aunt, Gayle Harris-Neely, is principal at Ray — said, "I’m just glad to get this vaccine, so I can finally take this mask off. It’s been a while since I could actually like breathe freely, without having to wear a mask."

In total, 74 people received vaccination shots at Ray on Saturday.

After receiving the vaccine Bakari said, “It just felt weird when they put the needle in my arm. It felt a little weird but it’s kinda gone now.”

Harris-Neely said the city reached out to a handful of elementary and high schools and she offered Ray as a site. “I think it's important for us to provide this opportunity not just for our students, but for Chicagoans in general,” she said. “It's just making people feel safer about the pandemic.”  

Jamir Patterson, 14, a student at Ray, received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Stepping off the bus, he looked to his mom and said, “That was fast!” He said that he wanted the shot so that he wouldn’t have to wear a mask anymore and thinks it would be cool to be able to go to school without one. Other students from the community were excited about receiving their shot and eager to get back to normalcy as soon as possible.  

Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson were the only vaccine offered on-site. The vaccination bus will return to Ray on June 12 to give out second Pfizer doses.

Local COVID-19 information 

As of May 24, the city's seven-day average positivity rate is 3.1%, below the 5% target positivity. As of May 9-15, the COVID-19 positivity in all four mid-South Side lakefront ZIP codes is below 5%.

  • In 60653, covering Kenwood and Oakland, there were 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared to 73 the week before, and one death, down from three the week before. There was a 3.9% positivity rate out of 1,023 tests performed. The number of tests performed dropped 16%. Out of the entire population, 39% has received a first dose of vaccine, and 28.8% is fully vaccinated.

  • In 60615, covering northern Hyde Park, southern Kenwood and northern Washington Park, there were 30 confirmed cases, down from 38 the week before, and no deaths, down from three the week before. There was a 2.3% positivity rate out of 1,806 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 10%. Out of the entire population, 53.6% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 44.6% are fully vaccinated.

  • In 60637, covering southern Hyde Park, southern Washington Park and Woodlawn, there were 46 confirmed cases, down from 73 the week before, and one death, up from none the week before. There was a 1.5% positivity rate out of 3,678 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 2%. Out of the entire population, 37.4% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 30.1% are fully vaccinated.

  • In 60649, South Shore, there were 59 confirmed cases, down from 79 the week before, and two deaths, up from none the week before. There was a 4.8% positivity rate out of 1,529 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 32.5%. Out of the entire population, 30.7% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 24.5% are fully vaccinated.

The city’s figures are accurate as of Friday, recorded at chi.gov/coviddash, and change as additional past data comes in.

From May 8 to May 14, the University of Chicago conducted 2,574 tests, one faculty-member or employee tested positive. Since Sept. 18, the university has reported 1,135 total cases to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The city's website for free COVID-19 testing is chicagocovidtesting.com; more information is available at chi.gov/covidtesting.

The city's website for vaccine information is chicago.gov/covidvax. The city's online platform for vaccine scheduling is zocdoc.com/vaccine. Seniors can also register over the phone at 312-746-4835.

Howard Brown Health is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone aged 16 and older, with sign-up at 872-269-3600. Katsaros Pharmacy is offering appointments online at katsarospharmacy.com for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Friend Health is scheduling vaccine appointments at all three of its South Side locations at friendhealth.as.me for the Moderna vaccine.

UChicago Medicine is also now vaccinating everyone, regardless of patient status.

“The University of Chicago Medicine has vaccinated more than 56,000 people against COVID-19, nearly half of whom live in 15 South Side ZIP codes that were given priority vaccination access," the network said in a statement. "We’re eager to expand our effort even further. To ensure social distancing in our vaccine clinic, we continue to ask people to schedule appointments through our call center since our capacity to accept walk-ins is limited."

Dr. Landon said the hospital has well-passed the initial lottery system of vaccine distribution and has, for months, been offering vaccines to everyone who has come to the emergency room, all inpatients and every primary care patients. As of Friday, all children aged 12 and older are also eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.

"Now, if you come to any visit at the hospital, you can just walk into the clinic the same day and get your vaccine," she said. "Anybody — they don't have to be connected to the university of anything — who has a child between the ages of 12 and 15, because I know some of the sites do not have Pfizer, they can call the hospital, and they can get scheduled."

The UChicago Medicine scheduling number is 1-888-824-0200.

The Cook County government is offering sign-up for vaccines at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.

Marc Monaghan contributed reporting.

Correction: This story initially misreported the name of the school Bakari Blackburn attends. It is the Walt Disney Magnet School, not the Walt Whitman Magnet School. The Herald regrets the error. 

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