Cook County

Inside Look: Mass Vaccination Sites in Cook County

For months, thousands of Illinoisans have been visiting mass vaccination sites to get their COVID-19 vaccine. How long will they stick around?

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Despite a slow-down in vaccinations across the country, mass vaccination sites have been credited with putting a dent in getting large swaths of the population vaccinated.

It may seem like these sites appeared almost overnight. That’s far from the truth.

Cook County Health gave NBC 5 exclusive access to a mass vaccination site in Des Plaines, which is one of six in Cook County and reportedly one of the busiest.

The site was constructed inside an empty Kmart that had been sitting empty for years, according to Cook County Bureau Chief of Asset Management, John Yonan.

“Our biggest challenge was the condition of it,” said Yonan. “There was a leaky roof that needed to be fixed.”

In fact, Yonan said dressing rooms and a jewelry counter were still in place -- relics of the big box store it once was.

Even ceiling panels, floor tiles and lighting had to be replaced.

What made this site prime was the open floor plan, he said, allowing nurses to see from one end of the building to the other.

“If someone needed assistance, a number of folks could be able to see that and that part of the open floor plan was unique to this location,” said Yonan.

Yonan said the facility costs the county about $150,000 a month. He said FEMA is expected to refund the county.

Adam Weber, Director of Clinical Applications for Cook County, helped secure a plethora of printers and tablets for each of the county’s six mass vaccination sites.

Weber said he’s proud to have helped Cook County reach more than 700,000 vaccinations in just a few months.

Even as vaccinations slow, he says more than 2,000 people a day still come in for vaccinations.

Inside stands a steel gate, manned by the National Guard. This is where Catanya Norwood, Senior Director of Pharmacy Services, said the “liquid gold” is kept.

Since March, the Des Plaines mass vaccination site has only had to throw out one vaccine, according to Norwood -- something Norwood said she’s proud of.

“Zero waste with our liquid gold; what can you say?” said Norwood.

To see the full tour, watch the video above.

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