Loretto Hospital will start vaccinating again through a city-run clinic, a month after the Chicago Department of Public Health cut off vaccine distribution to the Austin hospital after allegations the hospital gave priority access to connected people.
The clinic will be located at the West Side hospital and will open April 21, initially serving Austin residents exclusively, city officials said in a release.
The city cut off first-doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the hospital March 18 after multiple reports, first by Block Club Chicago and WBEZ, of the hospital giving vaccine access to people who were not yet eligible. The city said it reviewed an internal audit conducted by the hospital and interviewed hospital leadership, determining it would open the clinic under initial management by the city.
The city says it will manage operations, including registration and scheduling, and Loretto Hospital will provide staff to administer the vaccine and work with community organizations to ensure Austin residents get access.
“More than anything, our goal is to get this lifesaving vaccine to the residents of Austin and their neighbors on the West Side who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of Chicago’s public health department. “Loretto has acknowledged there were problems with their previous vaccination efforts and apologized for their mistakes. After reviewing the full accounting of past vaccine administered, and after multiple productive discussions with the team at Loretto about our expectations, we are ready to work in partnership with them to help get vaccine to a community that needs it.”
The statement from CDPH included one from Loretto Hospital President George Miller, in which Miller said he took responsibility for what happened, but was grateful the city has agreed to restart vaccinations at the hospital.
“While mistakes were made that I wish could be undone, I take full responsibility for those actions as president of this great hospital and have given my word that we will not find ourselves in this situation again,” Miller said. “Words alone cannot express my gratitude to Loretto staff, who have performed nothing short of miracles serving some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens during this pandemic. And starting next week, we will get back to the work of putting shots in arms on behalf of the city and addressing vaccination access gaps facing communities of colors.”
Loretto admitted making “mistakes” in offering shots to what Mayor Lori Lightfoot called “well-connected individuals,” who were not yet eligible under city and state guidelines, including Trump Tower workers and Cook County judges.
WBEZ also reported that some of its doses were given at home to family members of a west suburban businessman overseeing the hospital’s clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine.
The multiple incidents of people jumping the line for the sought-after vaccines led to the resignation of a top Loretto administrator, Dr. Anosh Ahmed.