Walmart is among a handful of retailers administering COVID-19 vaccines, and at least 1,200 seniors and essential workers have received the vaccine at eight Chicago stores since last week, the retailer said.
The stores will offer COVID-19 vaccines through Sunday and will administer additional doses if Walmart receives more from health officials, said Chinni Pulluru, a senior director at Walmart Health and Wellness.
Three stores in the Hermosa, West Chatham and Pullman neighborhoods are giving the vaccine in an area typically used to store online grocery orders. Those stores can vaccinate about 150 people per day. Other stores are vaccinating a smaller number of customers in store pharmacies.
Walmart pharmacists received training on handling the vaccine and dealing with vaccine hesitancy, though that hasn’t been an issue, said Walmart market health and wellness director Sarah Sultan.
“Demand has been high, and we’ve had a lot of patients come early to appointments,” she said.
Karin Pietrini, 74, of Oak Park, was among those eager to get the shot. She had been checking websites for hospitals, the Cook County health department and stores like Walgreens and Mariano’s multiple times a day for close to a week when a friend told her about Walmart. She called and got appointments at the Hermosa store for herself and her husband, Dan.
Though the process of getting an appointment, where she relied on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, was frustrating, the appointment at the store “felt like a party,” she said. She felt comfortable waiting in line, where there were markers to practice social distancing similar to those at checkout.
The only thing that gave her a moment of pause was leaving without an appointment for a second dose. Walmart hasn’t reserved second doses for people it vaccinated this week because the retailer decided it was important to “get shots in arms,” Pulluru said. Walmart said it would contact everyone to schedule appointments when it receives additional doses.
Now that she has the vaccine, she hopes she will be able to visit her mother, Herta Lisicic, by her 99th birthday next month. Lisicic, who lives at an independent living facility in Oak Park, is scheduled to get her first COVID-19 vaccine Friday.
“It just feels like the dam has broken and we’re finally there,” Pietrini said.