Chicago prepares to expand COVID-19 vaccinations to seniors over 65, essential workers next week

Chicago News

CHICAGO — As the state eases Covid restrictions in some counties Thursday, officials said Chicago will move to the next phase of vaccinations by expanding availability to people 65 and older and some essential workers next week.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady received her own second shot of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday at one of the city’s mass vaccination sites located inside Harry S. Truman College in Uptown.

Arwady said similar “points of dispensing” (PODs) in the city will be part of the next phase of the vaccine rollout (aka “1B”) starting Monday, which will require a reservation or appointment at a POD, doctor’s office, workplace or pharmacy.

“Every dose of vaccine in Phase 1B will be given by appointment,” Arwady said. “I know you have seen pictures of [lines] in other places around the country, that is not how we’re organizing our vaccine here.”

While the next phase will allow Chicagoans over the age of 65 and a specific group of essential workers to receive the vaccine, Phase 1A will also remain open, allowing for health care workers and those in long-term care facilities to continue to get their shots.

Arwady said the vast majority of people will likely receive a vaccine by making an appointment with their own doctor or pharmacy, but the city will be rolling out a centralized website for appointments at city-run sites in the coming days.

As the vaccine rollout has trickled out slowly, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging the federal government and pharmaceutical companies to ramp up production.

“The biggest challenge we face is really not having enough vaccine,” Lightfoot said.
The city has received between 32,000 and 34,000 doses a week for the last month. To put that in perspective, there are 360,000 Chicagoans over the age of 65 and some 300,000 essential workers in the city.

“The amount of vaccine that we are getting each week will allow us to vaccinate 5%, one in 20 of the people who are eligible,” Arwady said.

Across the state, officials reported nearly 5,000 new cases and more than 120 deaths Thursday, while the Illinois Department of Public Health announced it would ease certain Covid restrictions on Will and Kankakee counties.

That will allow restaurants and bars that serve food in the region to start serving indoors, with capacity limits.

IDPH data show the average number of daily vaccinations is declining from more than 27,000 on January 14 to 22,500 on January 20.

Governor JB Pritzker joined with six other Midwestern governors Thursday to release a video encouraging people to make a plan to get vaccinated.

Awady has advice for the thousands waiting for a shot in the arm: you’ll also need a healthy dose of something else: patience.

“I want you to understand, it is likely to be a number of weeks before you are able to receive vaccine,” Arwady said.

The state’s positivity rate for COVID-19 cases stands at 5.4%, while authorities say to avoid another surge people should continue to wear masks in public, keep distance, and wash their hands often.

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