Vaccine shortage causing private provider to contemplate laying off staff

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO – While the new mass vaccination sites are being added, at least one private provider says he may have to layoff staff because they have nothing to do now.

Keeping six feet away from other people isn’t very difficult to do at the Innovative Care Clinic on Diversey in Lincoln Park. With only 150 people vaccinated there per day recently, employees outnumber patients five to one.

“For me, I have a business in Chicago with 300 people, and the most important thing for me is to get the vaccines, employ these people, get people vaccinated so they can move on in their lives,” Dr. Rahul Khare.

With the existing infrastructure at his four clinics, Khare says he and his staff could administer as many as 3,000 vaccinations per day. He’s even operated mobile vaccination sites for Chicago Public Schools, essential business and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

“So far, we have given 30,000 vaccines, and we’re very excited about that number. We have the ability to see 3,000 patients per day and give them vaccines,” Dr. Khare said.

This week, Dr. Khare wrote a letter to Dr. Alison Arwady, commissioner of the city’s department of public health, to ask for more doses.

“Without it, I will need to lay off approximately 200 healthcare workers. We have existing capacity that is underutilized,” he wrote.

The next day, Dr. Khare said, he was in touch with city health officials, who said they also don’t know when they’ll see a more consistent stream of vaccines.

“They just told me they don’t have enough vaccines. They told me if they had enough vaccines to give me, they would definitely give me what I needed. I think they’re just as frustrated as me,” Dr. Khare said.

Despite the opening of a much heralded mass vaccination site at the United Center this week, a review of city data by WGN Investigates shows the number of city residents being vaccinated per day is not rising as quickly as other parts of the state.

From Feb. 12-25, an average of 11,450 vaccines doses were administered per day to Chicago residents.

Since then, it’s inched up to roughly 14,000 daily vaccinations.

“We get a list in like this, everybody is wanting thousands of vaccines and we like don’t have the vaccine, still,” Dr. Arwady said.

In an online interview Thursday, the city’s top doc acknowledged frustration with the slow arrival of vaccine from the federal government.

“These next couple of months, there’s going to be frustration. Every time you open up there’s always going to be frustration because everyone wants to be first in line,” Dr. Arwady said.

City health officials report more than “half” the number of providers who requested vaccine doses last week were turned down, due to lack of supply.

The city says Dr. Khare’s clinics are receiving some of the largest allotments to private providers in Chicago.

“We could open up three more sites tomorrow, if we have it,” Dr. Khare said.

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