Melanie Owens says South Side Chicagoans have been eager to get shots.
WASHINGTON — Walgreens pharmacy manager Melanie Owens told President Joe Biden Tuesday that the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in her store on Chicago’s South Side is helping keep local residents “alive and safe.”
Owens, who had COVID last March, spoke to the president during a virtual roundtable discussion with black essential workers. Having been infected, she said she can “really relate to what others are going though.”
That has helped motivate her more than ever to do all she can to help her community during the pandemic, said Owens. “It’s been a really tough year for us, but recently it’s been very rewarding to start being able to go to long-term care facilities and vaccinate the residents there. And also now it’s available in the stores.”
The predominantly black residents of the area around her store have been surprised at the convenience of getting the vaccine at the pharmacy, she said. She encouraged people to let family, friends and neighbors know “the vaccine is here” and “we’re here to help them.”
“Everyone had that assumption that they would have to go far and wide to find the vaccine,” she added. “I think it’s an awesome thing that we’re starting to roll it out in these communities … and hopefully it continues to become available.”
Owens said she wanted make sure that “we’re all doing what we need to do to get back to some kind of normalcy. So President Biden, please keep rolling out the vaccine because it is helping to keep people alive and safe.”
Asked by Biden if she was finding African-Americans more reluctant than others to get vaccinated, she said her customer base was excited about the opportunity.
Biden said the administration had boosted the vaccine supply to the states by 57% in his month in office, “and God willing, we’re going to be in a position where we can significantly increase that as well.”
Other roundtable participants included Hy-Vee district store manager Jeff Carter.
Domestic policy advisor Susan Rice, who moderated the event, said frontline workers have “borne the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. You are heroes, and your service we honor.”