Tucked in a strip mall between a thrift shop and dollar store, the former Chinese restaurant didn’t look like the epicenter of the fight against COVID-19. An A-frame sign out front promising “Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Here” was the only indication that the storefront was playing an important role in advancing vaccine equity in this community at the northern edge of Chicago’s suburbs.
Zion, Ill., is a small city not far from Lundbeck’s U.S. headquarters. Racially diverse with a large Black and Hispanic population, the city was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its infection rate consistently surpassed that of surrounding communities, according to the Lake County Health Department. Deemed high risk and medically underserved, Zion was flagged as a high-need community when COVID-19 vaccines became available.
But getting shots into arms required a broad community-based effort. That’s where Lundbeck, along with other Chicago-area life science organizations Horizon Therapeutics, Takeda and iBio, stepped in. Working in collaboration with Lake County Partners, an economic-development organization, Passport Health and the Lake County Health Department, the collaborative established a community COVID-19 vaccine program specifically for the Zion community. With support from the Lundbeck US Charitable Fund, the Health Department opened two vaccination sites in late April – one in the strip mall and another at the local Zion-Benton Township High School.
Matt Dubin, associate director of Human Resources, was one of the Lundbeck volunteers who helped staff the Vaccine Clinic.
Hyper-local promotion and door-to-door outreach helped spread the word about the availability of vaccines. Over the course of two months, the sites helped nearly 1,500 community members become fully vaccinated. Families came in together – older siblings comforting younger siblings, parents excited to become a fully vaccinated family, younger generations accompanying grandparents and translators helping community members overcome language barriers to feel safe and comfortable.
"Ever since I was able to get vaccinated in late January, I wanted to help others get vaccinated and pay it forward.” – LeeAnn Reinfurth, biopharmaceutical account manager
Lundbeck was well represented at the clinics with 30+ volunteers using their Volunteer Time Off (VTO) to give back to the community. Lundbeck employees completed vaccination cards, scheduled second-shot appointments, monitored patients after inoculation and cleaned the clinic to maintain a safe environment.
“Ever since I was able to get vaccinated in late January, I wanted to help others get vaccinated and pay it forward,” says LeeAnn Reinfurth, biopharmaceutical account manager with Lundbeck. “When Lundbeck announced they were supporting a vaccine clinic in an under-vaccinated area, I jumped at the chance to not only represent my company but help patients feel comfortable and truly understand the process. I felt awesome at the end of my shift and feel I did a small part to help us all get through this hard time.”
When foot traffic at the clinics started to decline, the program transformed to a mobile unit that traveled to various community events and celebrations. At each stop, professional health educators had conversation around vaccine myths and misconceptions and addressed vaccine hesitancy.
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