Rev. Jesse Jackson being released from rehab center on Wednesday after being treated for COVID

A month after their diagnosis, both Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and his wife Jacqueline are COVID-free.

The reverend was released from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab on Wednesday with a powerful message for the community. He says if he did not get vaccinated, he believes COVID-19 would have killed him.

"The shot protected me from death," he said.

Jackson and Jacqueline were both hospitalized with COVID a month ago. Jacqueline spent several days in the ICU on a ventilator before being sent home in early September. She was not vaccinated before her hospitalization.

Jackson, however, was. The 79-year-old says he was initially asymptomatic and taken by surprise when he tested positive.


Jackson has Parkinson’s disease, which was a major concern for doctors.

"I would have died," Jackson said. "The shot protected me from death … I never had a breathing issue, a respiration issue, but it targeted it my Parkinson’s, my previous existing condition."

Dr. Leslie Rydberg is a rehabilitation physician.

"What it can do is it can kind of offset their balance and strength a little bit, so we have really been focusing on his strength his endurance, his balance and his recovery," said Dr. Rydberg.

Rev. Jackson was one of the first members of the public to be vaccinated in Chicago and his family said he remains a strong advocate of vaccination, washing hands, wearing masks and following COVID-19 recommendations.

Jackson says he is ready to get back to work, planning to send his son, Jonathan, to the border to advocate for Haitian migrants before the month is over.