CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is ready to distribute the initial round of COVID-19 vaccine shots Sunday, but hurdles remain in the long struggle against the disease.
“We spent literally months building up the infrastructure, working with our hospitals, building out cold storage capacity,” Lightfoot said. “We’re ready to distribute the vaccine.”
Illinois will receive an initial shipment of 109,000 doses as the first wave of supplies are flown across the U.S. over the weekend. Of those, 23,000 doses will go to Chicago and the other 86,000 will go to the rest of the state.
Chicago-area hospitals are preparing to receive those doses, with Loyola University Medical Center and Christ Medical Center among two of the state’s 10 regional distribution points.
Healthcare workers who treat Covid patients and high-risk people will get it first, then first responders, essential workers, and then the wider public. The whole process could take months.
During a national television appearance on MSNBC Sunday, Lightfoot discussed how the city is trying to take an equitable approach to distributing the vaccine.
“Make sure you capture the demographic information on who’s actually getting the vaccine; if you do that, and you play by the rules, you can ensure there’s actual equity,” Lightfoot said.
She says the city faces two major challenges in the vaccination effort: distribution and distrust.
“We’ve got to communicate to them about why the vaccine is important and effective, with trusted community leaders in the middle,” Lightfoot said.
The Reverend Robin Hood of Redeem Outreach Ministries says faith leaders will also play a major role in combating community skepticism.
“We’re going to listen to exactly what the community is saying and try to get them to the answers,” Hood said. “We are not the ones who are going to say, ‘take the vaccine,’ we are the ones to say, ‘let’s get all the information that we can gather and make an educated decision about this.’”
Hood also helped organize a drive-through and walk-up testing event in Auburn Gresham on the city’s South Side Sunday. Leaders there said testing and masks remain essential in stopping the spread.
“The notion that the vaccine is here, that’s great; but until it goes into our arm, until we’re convinced it works, let’s do what we can do, wear a mask” said Autry Phillips of Target Area Development Corp.
Authorities say all 34 hospitals in the city will receive doses, but no hospital will get more than 2,000 initially. The city is expected to receive about 100,000 more doses by the end of the year.
Aldermen criticized the city’s plan as well Sunday, saying communities hit hard by the virus on the south and west sides should be near the front of the line.
“The need to have a different approach with testing and tracing,” said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th ward). “We are urging the Chicago Public Health Department, especially when we are talking about the vaccine.”