CHICAGO — Faith leaders held a health fair on Saturday hoping to use their trusted voices to encourage community members to get checked out and vaccinated.

The free event, which is hosted annually by the Greater Galilee Baptist Church in North Lawndale, has been taking place for the last 20 years. But since the pandemic, Pastor Steve Spiller Sr. says they expanded their services to include vaccines, COVID-19 testing and educational information on the virus.

“We want to make sure that we are proactive and making sure that this epidemic doesn’t continue to invade our communities like it did before,” Pastor Spiller said.

Spiller says he wants to get ahead of the virus, and so does Reverend Robin Hood, who got his flu shot and his COVID booster during Saturday’s event.

“So our community can know. It is better for us to do this and protect our elders. Because that’s one of the things that got me right away to do this. It was never about me,” Reverend Hood said.

Near North Health set up its mobile site outside the church and many community members followed Reverend Hood’s lead and signed up for their COVID boosters.

“The reason I get it is because immunocompromised. So we just want to be prepared for the season coming up. We don’t know what type of strands of COVID will be out there,” Ramona Blakney, who got her COVID and flu shots, said.

Reverend Hood says it was crucial for him to get his vaccinations because faith leaders like himself play a role in mediating vaccine hesitancy.

According to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health, the risk of catching COVID-19 is low right now. The most recent report is from September 26th, when the city saw 34 cases and had no deaths. But around two weeks ago, the city saw around 199 cases in one day.
While the risk levels fluctuate, some healthcare workers say COVID-19 remains a threat.

Crystal Flowers, the Near North Health Director of Nursing, says getting the updated COVID vaccine will help diminish the chances of spreading the virus.

“We need to be immune. Covid cases are on the rise and so if we’re all vaccinated then we have a better chance,” Flowers said.

According to Flowers, Near North Health will offer those who do not have insurance free COVID and flu shots.