CHICAGO — The first doses of the coronavirus vaccine are being administered in New York City, and the campaign will start Tuesday in Chicago.
Coronavirus vaccines are not yet available to the general public, and they likely won’t be until the spring, officials have said. When they are available, they will be free.
But already, scammers are calling people and falsely claiming they can avoid long lines and pay $79.99 for a vaccine dose now, according to a Monday email from the Better Business Bureau. The scammers are trying to steal people’s money and personal information.
Here’s how you can spot and avoid a vaccine scam, according to the group:
- Do not buy any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment from the internet or an online pharmacy.
- Research carefully: Scammers call and text people, send them message on social media or will even go door to door. Be skeptical and do not respond to them.
- Check with your doctor: If you want a vaccine early, contact your doctor, primary health care provider or local health department about your options.
- Ignore calls for immediate action: Scammers will try to get you to act quickly before you can think about what you’re doing. Do not do that.
- Double check URLs: Scammers use official-looking URLS — or website addresses — in their scams. But only a URL that ends in .gov is from the United States government. When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.
In Chicago, vaccinations will begin Tuesday.
Officials outlined the city’s vaccination plan during a Thursday news conference: It will start with a first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, which will arrive this week and will be distributed among the city’s hospitals. The vaccine will first go to health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
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, 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.”
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.