The Tinley Park Convention Center is no longer giving COVID-19 vaccinations.
The center gave out more than 130,000 pokes in the arm from Jan. 26 to May 27. With demand declining, Cook County shut it down the mass vaccination operation, offering plenty of gratitude to the village, county and Illinois National Guard its good work.
“I would like to thank the Tinley community. This site helped save so many people,” Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha said in a news conference minutes before closing up shop. "It’s a great honor to be a part of the project. I’m so excited.
“This site really accomplished a lot and went way and beyond what we thought was possible. It truly exceeded our expectations giving well over 100,000 vaccinations.”
Smaller sites will remain open throughout the county.
“Hyper-local vaccination sites are part our overall strategy to remove barriers to vaccine access while recognizing that many people are more comfortable in their community,” Rocha said in a news release. “Our vaccine strategy has been designed to reach every corner of Cook County.”
Iliana Mora, chief operating officer of Cook County Health Ambulatory Services, said the closing was historic.
“This is as much of a historical day as the first day,” she said. “It took an enormous amount of work to open this site and a lot of folks helped us. It was a huge effort. We didn’t have short days here. They were 16-18 hours seven days a week.”
The 120,000-square-foot-facility opened its doors to vaccinations with Gov. J.B. Pritzker making a speech. It closed its doors with people cheering National Guard members exiting the facility for the last time in that capacity.
“It was a real honor to be a part of this,” Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, commander of the Illinois Army and Air National Guard, said. “Since the start, the National Guard was fortunate to help their neighbors.
“For these men and women, it was very challenging early on. But it was their most rewarding mission.”
He said credits sacrifices by guard members for the success of the mission.
“That doesn’t happen because of guys like me,” he said. “It happens because of young soldiers we have out there making the sacrifice to separate from their families and from their full-time jobs.”