CHICAGO — Chicago is on track to have enough coronavirus vaccine available to protect all hospital workers within the next week or two, the city’s top doctor said Monday.
The city’s vaccination campaign has had a smooth rollout so far, officials said during a Monday news conference. More than 20,000 hospital workers who work in Chicago have been vaccinated, and the city is expanding the campaign to outpatient providers and people living and working in long-term care facilities this week.
“The rollout has been very good …,” Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said at the news conference. “We’re making good progress, but … there is really a long way to go.”
The city’s vaccine campaign kicked off Dec. 15 and Chicago is in Phase 1A. So far, almost all vaccinations have been done in hospitals among their workers, with a few also provided to paramedics, Arwady said.
But the city is now expanding its focus. Just before Arwady spoke, five people who work at Esperanza health centers were vaccinated, making them the first outpatient health care workers to be vaccinated here and the first Chicagoans to get the Moderna vaccine.
The city will keep working on making vaccine available to health care workers who don’t work in hospitals, Arwady said. Esperanza and five other federally qualified health care centers will get vaccine doses directly from the city starting Monday.
The city is also setting up a mass vaccination site at Malcolm X College where outpatient health care workers will be able to make appointments to get vaccinated.
The city is also expanding its focus to people living and working in long-term care facilities, with officials sending almost all of Chicago’s supply of Moderna vaccines to those places this week, Arwady said. Eight facilities will start vaccinating Monday, 26 will start this week and there are 128 more to go.
There are about 400,000 health care workers who will be prioritized for vaccines during Phase 1A, as well as thousands of people in long-term care facilities, officials have said.
The city expects to be vaccinating health care workers through January and February, Arwady said.
After that, the campaign will expand to other people as part of Phase 1B. During that phase, people 75 and older and some frontline workers will be given priority for vaccinations, according to federal recommendations.
Officials still aren’t sure when vaccines could be more widely available in Chicago. Arwady said the city hopes to be able to project how long it’ll take to get through phases so people know what to expect — but they can’t do that until they see a stabilization in the number of vaccine doses being sent from the federal government to Chicago.
This week, the city is getting 16,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, as well as 21,450 Pfizer doses, Arwady said.
People who work at a health care practice in Chicago — whether they provide medical, dental, mortician or home health services — can go online to fill out a survey. The city will then connect their office with information on how workers can get vaccinated.
No unexpected side effects or unusual problems with the vaccine have been reported in Chicago, Arwady said. Many people aren’t reporting side effects, she said, and those who are say they’ve only experienced a day or two of a sore arm, muscle aches, headaches or fatigue.
Still, Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to keep taking safety precautions like wearing a mask and staying socially distant since it will be months before the vaccine is widely available.
Lightfoot also urged Chicagoans to stay at home during New Year’s Eve as the city tries to avoid a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Let me remind you: We are and must be in this together. … Because we have this vaccine, because we have hope we haven’t seen in months, it does not mean the pandemic itself is over. Quite the opposite,” Lightfoot said. “We cannot afford to let more Chicagoans, our neighbors, get sick and die because of risky and irresponsible behavior.”
Throughout Illinois, more than 112,000 vaccine doses have been administered.
At least 16,074 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 1,396 deaths are probably related, according to the state. There have been at least 4,088 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 201,443 confirmed cases, according to state data.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.