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Vaccine Variations


If you get your Covid vaccine at the Rock Island County mass vaccination clinic in Milan, through May 20, there will be something special that’s literally music to your ears.

Taking a cue from famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s recent impromptu performance during his Covid vaccine observation period, the Rock Island County Health Department and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra are partnering to bring live music to the mass vaccination site at Camden Centre in Milan.

“Vaccine Variations” is an initiative that arranges for one-hour performances by QCSO musicians that started April 14 in the patient observation area of the vaccination clinic. Due to Covid precautions, the performances will feature string musicians only.

All musicians will be masked and socially distanced during their performances. As a thank you for their decision to vaccinate, patients will receive a discount code valid for upcoming QCSO performances.

Janet Hill, chief operating officer of the Rock Island County Health Department, came up with idea, to calm and comfort anxious patients. She was inspired after seeing Yo-Yo Ma, the legendary cellist, last month perform a solo for the clinic inside the gym at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Mass., after he got his second vaccine dose.

“I know personally that one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic for me is that I don't get to go listen to live music. That's just a really important part of my mental health is listening to music, and when Yo-Yo did that, I just thought what a brilliant idea -- we've got all of these musicians in the Quad-Cities who are not being able to do what they were put on this Earth to do.”

“We’ve been missing so much joy since the pandemic started, this is just one way that we can help bring it back and we have a captive audience for 15 minutes while they’re there, waiting to see if there's any type of really rare vaccine side effect. We've had very, very few and all across the country, there's been just a handful of serious side effects. Most of the time people are just sitting there, 15 minutes on their phone and we just thought it would be just a wonderful opportunity to bring a little bit of joy and culture back and we've been missing that for more than a year.”

Hill says the clinic is only featuring string musicians, to prevent the transmission of aerosols and droplets that would be in the air if woodwind and brass players performed.

The clinic in Milan, assisted by the National Guard, is open from 8 am to 4 pm Monday- Saturday. Appointments must be made in advance. Online links for appointments are available on the health department’s Facebook page and website, richd.org.

The clinic has administed an average of 800 doses a day, which adds up to 4,800 a week. Hill says they started as a mass vaccination clinic on March 8. Including pharmacies and doctors’ offices, there have been about 70,000 doses of Covid vaccines given in Rock Island County. In total, more than 26,000 people in the county are fully vaccinated, representing 18% of the population. Across Illinois, 35 percent of the population has received at least one Covid shot and 19 percent are fully vaccinated. In Iowa, it’s 34 percent with at least one dose and 22 percent fully vaccinated. In the U.S., 63 million people total have been fully vaccinated.

Hill hopes the new partnership encourages even more to get their vaccine. Now, anyone 16 and older in Illinois and Iowa is eligible.

“It's been a horrible year for every person in this world. And so I think that it's important to remember that vaccination is an important tool and without having everyone who is eligible vaccinated, this pandemic can continue until we reach herd immunity and we don't know what that number is yet.”

“We have a pretty good idea that it's north of 75 percent. We need to get people vaccinated. So we're grateful that the National Guard is here to help us with that and that the state of Illinois has opened up many more mass vaccinations sites across the state, because we're going to need every one of those resources to vaccinate our state which is, you know, 13 million people.”

“If the partnership with the symphony is the deciding factor to get someone to come to the vaccination site for the joy of hearing a live performance, that's wonderful. I look at it as just a moment of joy to all Quad Citians who are eligible to be vaccinated. But if it's the tipping point, that's even better.”

For more information on the symphony, visit www.qcso.org.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.