Launch of COVID-19 vaccine site staffed by paramedics at New Trier High School seen as state and national model, officials say
By Karen Ann Cullotta
The launch of a new COVID-19 vaccine site staffed by local paramedics at New Trier High School this week could provide the blueprint for future sites across Illinois and the U.S., officials said Wednesday.
Nearly 500 vaccines were expected to be in the arms of educators, first responders and essential workers by the end of day Wednesday at the pilot vaccination site at the high school’s Northfield campus at 7 Happ Road.
Cook County Public Health CEO Israel Rocha Jr. said while county officials are “very proud of the work” that has been done to ensure an equitable distribution of the vaccine to communities hit hardest by the virus, he acknowledged the frustrations of those who have been trying without success to procure appointments.
“Patience is a key ingredient,” Rocha said, adding he is hopeful the model at New Trier can be replicated throughout Cook County once there is a more robust supply of the vaccine.
Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, 14th District, said with a lack of vaccine sites in the north suburbs, the opening of the new point of distribution at New Trier was, “the fulfillment of a dream.”
Despite facing a “plethora of challenges and demands” that needed to be overcome before the new partnership was forged by Cook County Department of Public Health, the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System Division 3 and area hospitals, Britton said area fire chiefs and officials at New Trier and several adjacent communities were determined to make it work.
“This unprecedented partnership between the county and local government is a perfect example of how cooperation and collaborative problem solving among public officials can have a profound impact on our communities’ lives,” Britton said.
Winnetka Village President Chris Rintz said he is hopeful that after the initial rollout to educators and first responders, vaccines administered at the New Trier site might eventually be available to other local residents.
“Thank goodness we’re here today, watching people getting vaccines in their arms,” Rintz said.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who did not attend the kickoff of the New Trier vaccine site, said in a statement that the new site is a step forward in the county’s equity-centered COVID-19 vaccination plan.
“We’ve seen over the last year the hard work and sacrifices of our educators and first responders during the pandemic, and I am grateful that we were able to establish this site to make it easier for them to be vaccinated,” Preckwinkle added.