Other targeted Points of Distribution to be based on TF South model, says Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (February 11, 2021) – “I know how hard our educators are working during this pandemic,” said Cook County Board President—and former teacher—Toni Preckwinkle when she visited TF South on Wednesday, February 10. “I know how difficult it is to try to teach your class through Zoom or Teams. I’m particularly pleased that we’ve been able to set up this site to make it easier for all of our educators and school staff to be vaccinated.”
This week TF South was officially launched as a designated COVID-19 vaccination site—designated for School District 215 personnel. TF South is Cook County’s first designated site, as part of a program that is designed to streamline vaccine access for targeted service populations such as educators and first responders.
“Thornton Fractional High School will be a vaccination site which will serve as the first pilot Educational Point of Distribution (POD) for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Preckwinkle announced, stressing that “this is a pilot program.”
A pilot program to address limited vaccine availability
“The vaccination site is specifically geared toward our hardworking teachers and employees of [this] district and its feeder elementary schools, as well as educators and staff in the South Suburban Conference,” Preckwinkle explained. “As a reminder, we still do not have enough vaccine for every person in Phases 1A and 1B.”
“We’re making progress toward vaccinating folks who are eligible in those groups, but I ask you to be patient. I ask you to be patient. The limiting factor is the availability of the vaccine,” said Preckwinkle. “That’s a real challenge, not just here in Cook County, but across the country. I understand that it’s frustrating to be told to be patient. However, as we continue to open new sites, and as the vaccine access expands at the federal level, we’re moving closer to our goal, which is to vaccinate everybody—and a return to normalcy.”
Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller (6th District) pointed out that logistics and transportation are factors affecting vaccine access in the south suburbs. Multiple sites are necessary to improve accessibility. Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam added, “We are proud beyond what I can tell you to have this experimental POD opening here today, right here in our local high school.”
Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th District) told the crowd, “This POD (Point Of Distribution) is going to set the precedent for vaccination centers across the county. So we are very proud to be here today.”
“This is history”
“It is quite an emotional moment,” said Superintendent Sophia Jones-Redmond, “for most of us to see this.” Jones-Redmond was largely responsible for making the site a reality. She initiated the contact with Cook County, and shepherded the idea through various stages of approval, with the District 215 School Board voting unanimously to approve the final agreement with Cook County Health at a special meeting on February 4. “I don’t want to gloss over this moment—this is history. We are honored to have been asked to serve and host [this site].”
“Thank you to all of the distinguished guests here,” she continued. “Thank you that you chose us. We will make sure that we offer every educator, all school personnel, the opportunity in south Cook County to receive the vaccine.”
Not a public site
Israel Rocha Jr. is the CEO of Cook County Health and has been rolling out “one of the largest vaccine administration programs in the country.” At the press conference he said, “Today marks the opening of the first targeted POD, which stands for Point of Distribution, which is intended to ensure access to vaccine in vulnerable communities. Thornton Fractional South will serve as the first Educational POD, designated to vaccinate the employees of District 215, feeder schools, and schools in the South Suburban Conference.”
“It is important to emphasize,” Rocha added, “that this is not a public site. We are working to vaccinate teachers and school personnel in order to begin to return our communities to normalcy and to fortify our critical services throughout the county. Once we vaccinate teachers and other school personnel, we hope to expand to community members who meet Phase 1A, Phase 1B, or whatever criteria we are at at the time. …We will use the lessons learned here to expand the model.”
Will Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools (private schools), like St. Ann School in Lansing, Christ Our Savior School in South Holland, and Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights now be able to take advantage of the TF South Educational Point of Distribution? Their needs for COVID vaccinations appear to be as great as those public schools that are in south suburban educational districts, like School District 215.
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