Health officials push for faster vaccine rollout as seniors over 65 are next in line in Illinois

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is moving along in Illinois and across the country Wednesday, but at a much slower pace than many had hoped.

The priority for now in Illinois remains frontline healthcare workers and long-term care residents in the Phase 1A group.

A total of 350 seniors were vaccinated at Smith Village in Chicago Wednesday, making up one of the largest groups given the shot in a single site on a single day.

CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says starting next week, city residents over 65 will be able to start receiving the vaccine through their current health care providers, starting with the oldest and most vulnerable patients.

While efforts are progressing, Arwady is among many experts critical of the pace of the vaccine rollout. 

“Both last and this week we have gotten between 32 thousand and 34 thousand doses which is honestly not enough,” Arwady said. “No vaccine is being wasted, period.” 

If the pace of vaccinations doesn’t increase, Northwestern Medicine’s Dr. Robert Murphy says it could take 1,000 days to achieve herd immunity in Illinois using two-dose vaccines.

Seniors are already being vaccinated in Florida on a first-come-first-serve basis by waiting in line and even camping overnight at vaccine sites. 

Officials in Illinois say that is not the way to go, saying they’re confident those 65 and older will get access in the coming weeks by making an appointment at local pharmacies, hospitals and doctors offices.

Dr. Rachel Rubin with Cook County Public Health said she doesn’t think it will take as long to achieve herd immunity as some expect, and she expects Phase 1B to start in early February in suburban Cook County.

“If we were doing vaccinations at the pace of even last week it would take a long time but even as of this week we are getting more vaccinations online that’s just as critical as having the vaccine,” Rubin said.  “Both my parents just passed away from Covid so this is extremely personal to me.”

Many counties are now posting forms to fill out online to register and receive alerts when it’s your turn.

Rubin says the key is not only the number of vaccines distributed to Illinois, but having enough people to give them. To speed things up, officials are asking nurses and nursing students to sign up to help administer vaccines.

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