Alumna leads partnership to deliver vaccinations to city’s most vulnerable

A nurse injects a COVID-19 vaccine into the arm of a female patient wearing a surgical mask.
Janet Lin photo.

The University of Illinois Chicago, along with Protect Chicago Plus, have partnered to provide 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines to residents in the Englewood neighborhood, with plans to expand to other city areas with vulnerable populations.  Janet Lin, MD, MPH ’04 and affiliate associate professor of community health sciences, is UIC’s operational lead for the community vaccination effort.

The temporary vaccine clinic at UI Health’s Mile Square Health Center Englewood, opened March 1st and is delivering free vaccines to Englewood and Englewood West residents 18 and older. Residents can receive their first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine through the end of March.

Protect Chicago Plus has provided the vaccines to the clinic in Englewood, and more than 30 community-based organizations, ward offices, and faith institutions are working together to share information and connect neighborhood residents with appointment registrations – including One Health Englewood, Teamwork Englewood, Antioch Community Social Service Agency, Englewood Community Action Council, R.A.G.E. (Resident Association of Greater Englewood), among many others.

For Lin, partnering with community organizations is critical to ramping up vaccination efforts across the city:

Just like COVID took us by storm, so has the movement to get as many people vaccinated who need it most. Beyond setting up a community vaccine clinic in under a week, we needed to mobilize the community quickly.

Englewood resident Phyllis Curry, 60, said a neighbor told her about the vaccination clinic. She called and got an appointment for the same morning. The mother of two school-age children, she had no hesitations about getting the vaccine. “In order to get this pandemic under control, it’s worth taking the chance. I don’t want to get sick. I have to take care of my kids,” she said.

Lorraine Brown, 52, of Englewood, said she was a little more hesitant. She said she’d heard negative things about the vaccine. After she missed two vaccine appointments, the clinic called her. She changed her mind. “I want to be part of the overall effort to stop COVID,” she said. “Let’s save some lives.”

For Sania White, 22, getting vaccinated at the Englewood clinic was a family matter. Her mother had COVID, and since her family is risk-prone, she chose to get the vaccine. “I come from a family of faith. My parents always said, ‘Don’t operate out of fear, operate out of caution,” she said.

Over 200 people a day have been getting vaccines at the clinic, said Dale Benton, a nurse practitioner and the medical director for the Mile Square Health Center Englewood. Benton, who was helping patients to take post-vaccination photos, told them to celebrate this moment.

“Remember where you were a year ago, and how afraid you were?” Benton said. “Now you have a viable option.”

In the coming weeks, UI Health in partnership with Protect Chicago Plus will open other temporary vaccine clinic sites modeled after Englewood’s strategy.

For more information on the Englewood vaccination clinic and other UI Health vaccination sites, visit vaccine.uihealth.org.

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