CHICAGO — The city’s first coronavirus vaccine doses will be given to health care workers Tuesday at Loretto Hospital.
The vaccination campaign will kick off 10:30 a.m. at the Austin hospital, 645 S. Central Ave. Officials will livestream health care workers as they receive the first doses. You’ll be able to click here to watch.
Already, Chicago’s first vaccine shipment has arrived, according to a Governor’s Office news release. The state has also received its first shipment of doses, which will be administered outside the city.
“Today is a very special day that should instill us all with optimism and hope,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a Monday news conference. “As we speak, our vaccine distribution teams are putting into action what they have prepared and drilled for over the past several weeks, carefully taking inventory of tens of thousands of vaccines, repackaging the vaccines and preparing those packages to ship out to our hospital distribution centers tomorrow and Wednesday.
“… We are seeing the beginning of the end of this pandemic.”
The city released few details about the kickoff, but the choice of Loretto Hospital for the first vaccination is significant: The hospital is on the West Side and serves many low-income people and people of color — which are the populations hit hardest by the pandemic and its economic fallout.
“The fact that we are one of the first to get the vaccination is recognition that life has not always been fair for African Americans because of the disparities and inequities that exist,” said Loretto Hospital President George Miller.
The event will start what officials say will be a year-long process to get everyone in Chicago vaccinated to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Already, Chicago has seen at least 3,805 people die from COVID-19 and 185,883 confirmed cases.
COVID-19 vaccines are being prioritized for health care workers and people living and working in long-term care facilities; they will not be available to the general public for months.
But, over the months, the campaign will grow. More vaccine doses will be delivered to Chicago weekly, and doses from other vaccines — like Moderna’s — will start coming in and being used if they’re approved federally.
The city will distribute the first 23,000 vaccine doses among Chicago hospitals, which will then vaccinate health care workers. Hospitals are expected to give priority to people working directly with COVID-19 patients.
Residents and staff in long-term care facilities will also be prioritized. The city is partnering with organizations like Walgreens to vaccinate people in those facilities. Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, previously said she expects vaccines to begin going out to all long-term facilities in the city by the second or third week of the campaign.
Then, starting in late December or early January, the city will start setting up mass vaccination sites where health care workers can go to be vaccinated, Arwady said. They’ll be aimed at workers who aren’t employed at hospitals and will be appointment-only.
“Much further down the line,” possibly in late March, the city expects to be able to start vaccinating essential employees, people older than 65 and people with underlying medical conditions, Arwady said.
A federal committee will determine who falls into the “essential worker” category and how members of that group are prioritized — if teachers should be vaccinated before grocery workers, for example.
Once that happens, the city will still run its mass testing sites, but it will also provide vaccine doses to partners like doctors and pharmacies so people can get vaccinated at those places, Arwady said.
Arwady said she isn’t sure when wider vaccination would be available to people who don’t fall into those categories, as so much depends on the availability of vaccine doses.
“I can tell you just very high level, the city of Chicago is broadly anticipating that we may be in the direct vaccination business for about six months,” Arwady said. “We’re hoping that in about six months there will be enough widespread vaccine that it will be very widely available. We won’t need to be doing more of those vaccination sites, etc.”
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