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'It Was Like A Gift From God That Came Out Of Nowhere': Mental Health Professionals Grateful For COVID Vaccine

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The coronavirus vaccine has arrived in the area and more people here are getting COVID-19 shots.

And it could pop up at your pharmacy soon. CBS 2's Lauren Victory reports not everyone should get in line just yet. Because these shots are still for people working in healthcare. But what's new is the vaccine's availability that's going beyond hospitals.

Mental health and addiction treatment provider SunCloud Health switched to virtual visits early on in the pandemic.

"It was a very difficult transition."

That was a counselor's assessment only a few months in. Tele-health still isn't cutting it, so the vaccine rollout is very important to co-founder David Newton.

"Relieved, thrilled, nervous," Newton said. "The possibility of bringing our patients back in person doesn't even start, unless we can ensure that our staff is safe."

His eagerness morphed into anxiousness, watching hospital employees get immunized and wondering when those in private practice would get a shot.

"We were feeling pretty hopeless earlier this week," Newton said.

Until the Cook County Health Department directed the SunCloud Health team to a Schaumburg Jewel-Osco. Eleven hundred doses were given there and at the grocery chain's Orland Park and River Forest locations over the past few days.

"It was like a gift from god that came out of nowhere," Newton said.

You'll hear more sighs of relief in Wheaton, where the DuPage County Health Department is also expanding vaccine access outside hospitals.

DuPage said it will need "verification of their healthcare personnel status, i.e., employee ID badge, check stub, state licensure or certificate."

"We're looking at about 1,500 appointments a week being available," said Christopher Hoff with DuPage County Community Health Resources.

More locations are coming soon, said Hoff, who encourages the public to sign up for updates on the county website.

"We're sending information out to that list of say 'hey, we've got 300 appointments or 1,000 appointments that are opening,'" said Hoff.

Keep in mind - healthcare professionals are still the priority.

"Especially those that are providing direct service to clients or patients, seeing them face to face," Hoff said.

Newton from SunCloud Health repeatedly expressed his gratitude for the last minute vaccine appointment.

The COVID-19 vaccine has a shelf life. To prevent it from going to waste, health departments may take that end-of-the week surplus and open up appointments at places like Jewel-Osco.

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