Over the past year, there have been so many simple, cherished moments I have missed and once took for granted. My monthly breakfast with Hyde Park elected officials at Mellow Yellow. Visiting my favorite bookstores, Powell’s and 57th Street Books. Flipping pancakes at the annual Hyde Park Neighborhood Club breakfast. Dinner with friends at Pizza Capri.
I miss the hugs of friends at the Fourth of July parade and seeing smiles, now covered by masks, on my daily walks with my dog in the neighborhood.
But now, more than a year after the first reported case of COVID-19 in Cook County, I feel a new sense of hope that we will return to these moments with the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this week, I was fortunate to receive my first dose of vaccine. Being over the age of 65, I was eligible to receive the vaccine in the 1b group, which began for most of Cook County and the City of Chicago on Jan. 25.
While receiving the vaccine was a special moment for me personally, the day also represented a milestone in Cook County’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. That morning, the first of several COVID-19 large scale vaccination sites opened at the Tinley Park Convention Center. Members of the National Guard have been deployed to vaccination sites to assist as we move forward in our vaccination program.
Although vaccine supply is low and demand is high throughout the country, it is crucial to have the capability and space ready now so that we can expand our efforts once more vaccine becomes available. We have projected that the large-scale sites will be able to administer thousands of vaccines per day once at full capacity.
I urge residents to be patient during this process, as the vaccination of millions of residents will take time. But more importantly, I urge residents to make an appointment and receive the vaccine as soon as they are able. By doing so, you are not only protecting yourself and your loved ones, but you are protecting your neighbors, your grocery store clerk and your child’s teacher.
For residents who are not in a priority group, I’m asking that you step up and offer assistance to elderly relatives, friends and neighbors who are already eligible to receive the vaccine. Their lives may depend on it.
As a Black woman, I empathize with the distrust that communities of color are feeling right now given our country’s historic racism in medicine. But take it from a neighbor and someone who has already gotten it — the vaccine is safe, effective and our best shot to protect ourselves and our communities.
I took my shot so that I can get back to the moments that I hold so dear. When your turn comes, I hope that you’ll join me.
Toni Preckwinkle is president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners