COOK COUNTY - The Illinois National Guard has been deployed to one of its most critical missions ever.
They’re helping to organize and expedite the state’s massive COVID-19 vaccination effort.
Mia Mapa is trained as a medic in the Illinois National Guard. But on Friday she put that training to use fighting COVID-19.
Mapa is one of the first Illinois National Guard soldiers deployed to vaccination centers.
"COVID is no different than fighting an enemy overseas. We are all here to support the community. That’s one of the main reasons we joined the Army," said Lt. Alejandro Villafuerte.
They greet patients at the front door, escort them to clinic rooms, administer the vaccination shots and then watch the patients in a recovery room after they’ve received the vaccine.
Before the Guard arrived at this clinic earlier this week, they were only able to vaccinate about 75 people a day.
"Now with the Guard here we can get up to 275 vaccines done in a single day. They are very efficient, professional and well trained, so we’re really happy to have them here," said Dr. Daniel Vittum of the Cook County Health Department.
For now, the Guard is only assisting vaccinations in Cook County, but Gov. Pritzker says that is just the start.
"And over the next three weeks approximately 25 additional National Guard vaccination teams are deploying to more sites in the high-need areas all across the state," said Pritzker.
"I am from the Cook County area. So it’s really great for me to be able to help out the community. It’s one of the whole reasons I joined the Guard -- to be able to help out," said Sgt. Johnny Newsome.
And it’s appreciated by the people getting the vaccines, who are more accustomed to seeing Guard troops deployed in Washington DC and Springfield.
"Thank you so much for your service. I’d much rather see it being focused on this rather than what was happening this past week," said Sophie Foucault who received the vaccine.