Nearly 600 Oak Park public school staff received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Oak Park and River Forest High School on Feb. 13. Those who received the vaccination are employed by Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and High School District 200.
“The nurses of both school districts were fantastic and volunteered hours of their time to help vaccinate their co-workers and neighbors,” said Oak Park Interim Public Health Director Joseph Terry.
The day went very well, according to Terry, who said he and the health department are grateful to the high school’s staff for helping to set up the clinic.
Volunteers from the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), an organization that provides supplemental emergency response workers, assisted in the vaccination effort, as did members of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Both volunteer organizations have been assisting in the village’s vaccination efforts. The Saturday event was “another great turnout” by volunteers, according to Terry.
“They have been there from the beginning,” he said. “Without these volunteers we would not be able to vaccinate as many as we have.”
MRC volunteer and Oak Park physician Bill Clark, who practices psychiatry, said the clinic went “very, very smoothly.”
“We had 15 stations set up, so there were 15 tables delivering vaccines and there really wasn’t a line,” said Clark. “I don’t know what it looked like outdoors but indoors the pace was very, very measured.”
At Clark’s table, he handled data entry while an oncology nurse administered the vaccine to educators.
“I think the two of us inoculated about 40 people,” he said. “That was my last count.”
The educators at the clinic received the Pfizer vaccination. Clark called the care put into the vaccine “very impressive.”
“They came shipped in an 80-pound box that was filled with dry ice,” he said.
The Pfizer vaccine has to be maintained at a much lower temperature, while the vaccine created by Moderna can be stored in temperatures similar to standard freezers. Pfizer packaged the vaccines with dry ice so that no special refrigeration equipment was needed, according to Clark,
The package of vaccines also contained tracking devices and temperature monitors he told Wednesday Journal.
“If the temperature rises above where it’s supposed to be, Pfizer is alerted and they will reach out to the distributor,” said Clark. “Very, very slick.”
While the clinic took place the day before Valentine’s Day, he said hearts were very full on Feb. 13 and there was a “sense of celebration” at the high school that day.
“A number of the teachers expressed how emotional they felt; that it was just a real relief.”
Many of the volunteers recognized or knew the teachers who came to the clinic for inoculation.
“I think that sort of added to the excitement of it,” said Clark. “Our kids teachers were there and we were there inoculating them.”