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Vaccine site at James Hart School draws a crowd

The Illinois Department of Public Health’s vaccine event Friday, Jan. 7, at James Hart School drew dozens of people for first, second and booster shots against COVID-19. The first such event at James Hart was held in December.

People were in line by 2:30 p.m. for the three-hour event in the school’s gym that officially opened at 3 p.m. At about 4:30 p.m., staff announced that they were out of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for adults, but hoped to have a new stock by 5 p.m.

“We underestimated the demand,” a nurse told the crowd waiting in the hallway.

Brianna Merrill, 13, a student at James Hart School, gets her booster shot during the vaccine event Friday hosted by the Illinois Department of Public Health. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Kylie Greene, a second grader at Willow School waited with her mom, Chanera Besser. Kylie would be getting her second shot, and Besser was there for a booster shot. She received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said she would take any booster available.

“We’ve all been healthy,” Besser said, but with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, she wanted that extra layer of protection. She has a younger daughter in daycare who is too young to receive a shot, and Besser said she’s concerned for her health because daycare “is like a petri dish” for illnesses.

Melissa Huff got to the school at 3 p.m. with her two six-year-old daughters who attend Willow School. She’d been in line for more than an hour and could see into the gym where shots were being administered. The girls would be getting their first doses of the vaccine.

“With the rise in cases, their exposure is greater than ever,” Huff said. The family has limited their activities outside the home, but she admitted COVID-19 means families have “less in your control.”

Jody Alford of Homewood was there with his two sons, Rowan, 8, a student at Churchill School, and Theodore, 6, a student at Willow School. Rowan is immunocompromised “so getting him caught up (with his shots) is important,” said Alford, who was there for his booster shot.

Amber Drake of Homewood said she, like other parents, learned about the vaccine event from emails District 153 sent to families. Drake brought her daughters, Maggie, 5, and Minnie, 7, who were there for their second shots.

Andrew Lorts brought his daughters Liliana, a second grader, and Alexandra Rea, a kindergartener at Willow School. Lorts said both girls were there for their second round of the vaccine “so they don’t get sick.”

Pierre Lewis was there with his daughters Kennedy and London who attend District 153 schools, and 19-year-old son Jared. The girls were getting their second shots, and Pierre and Jared were there for boosters.

“We’ve got to keep them in school and move forward with this,” Lewis said.

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