‘It’s like a game’: Suburban residents flock to Chicago to get vaccines


CHICAGO — The erratic rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has created challenges in communities throughout the Chicago area.

Many people who are eligible for the vaccine can’t get an appointment. Others from the suburbs are booking appointments in the city.

“In terms of the implementation of it, that’s where it’s failed,” Deerfield health care worker Jen Katz said.

Her friend who has gone through the same experience agrees.

“It’s like a game, truly, it’s like a game,” Katz’s friend said.

Katz’s friend figured out how the play the game to help her family and friends who fall into groups 1A and 1B.

“All I know is for two weeks straight I was on Walgreens at midnight trying to get whoever appointments that was looking,” she said. “I would type in every zip code, starting with our own and going into the city.”

She was able to help her friend, who used the method help her own family.

“She should literally call me or shoot me a text around 2:00, 3:00 all hours of the night and say ‘there’s an opening,’” Katz said.

Katz was able to get an appointment at a health clinic in the city. She also scored appointments in the city for her mom who lives in Northbrook and her grandmother who lives in Niles.

“The openings weren’t in our area,” Katz said.

Chicago’s Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady reported Thursday just more than a third of people who’ve been vaccinated in city aren’t city residents. That number includes people who work in the city but live elsewhere – but it also includes people who don’t fall into either category.

“We don’t want people broadly driving long distances who don’t have connections to Chicago,” Arwady said in a Facebook Live Thursday.

But at a vaccination site in the Austin neighborhood this week, Alderman Emma Mitts noticed that’s what’s happening.

“They was coming from all over. They had been able to lock down appointments, and they was all excited to get the shot. And I was like, wow, right here in the neighborhood and I could tell my constituents wasn’t in line for the vaccine,” Mitts said.

She said since then her office has called more than 100 constituents to try to help them book appointments.

Arwady says there are some vaccine programs only available to people who live in certain neighborhoods, and there are workers going door-to-door registering people who may not be able to book online.

“Our whole goal, this sort of equity strategy, the strategy of using vaccine in careful ways, is to not just say the people who raise their hands first and are the loudest and are willing to drive the furthest that’s not who always gets the vaccine,” Arwady said in the Facebook Live.

But plenty of people are willing to drive as far as it takes.

Katz said she recognized the dilemma, calling it a “systemic issue more than anything.”

“When it comes to your loved ones when you have not hugged in a year and who are fragile health-wise and who are isolating, you do it,” she said.

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