CHICAGO — Chicago and Illinois are taking back tens of thousands of coronavirus vaccine doses that were supposed to go to long-term care facilities but have yet to be used.
The vaccine doses will instead be used to vaccinate other people who are eligible during Phase 1B, though a supply of doses will be kept to ensure people living and working in long-term care facilities can still get vaccinated if they choose to do so. State officials announced the change in a Wednesday news release.
“We want to make sure every dose allocated to Illinois can be used as quickly and equitably as possible,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “Long-term care residents and staff remain a top priority, and we will ensure there will be as many doses readily available to those facilities as the [partnership] can administer each week.”
Chicago is also reclaiming vaccine doses, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, told Block Club.
The federal government distributes vaccine doses among states and large cities, like Chicago, based on their population. But a portion of those doses are automatically taken away and provided to long-term care facilities as part of a federally-run partnership with pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS.
But the partnership’s efforts to vaccinate in long-term care facilities have gotten off to a slow start in Chicago and Illinois, meaning thousands of doses have gone unused, though not wasted.
The doses will now be used on other people eligible for vaccinations during Phase 1B: frontline workers like grocery store employees and police officers, people 65 and older and health care workers.
It means the state and city will get back tens of thousands of doses, providing a much-needed boost as they try to vaccinate millions of people while receiving just a small supply of vaccine doses from the federal government every week.
Chicago had to allocate about one-third of its first month of doses to the program, which added up to more than 118,000 doses, Arwady said.
“Nobody wants to vaccinate long-term care facilities more than we do,” Arwady said.
People living and working in those facilities were prioritized for vaccinations because they’re at higher risk for exposure, severe illness and death from COVID-19.
But Chicago hasn’t seen the uptake that was expected in long-term care facilities, Arwady said. That’s at least partly because the federal government allocated doses to the facilities based on how many beds they had available for people, rather than how many people were actually living and working at the facilities.
Chicago spoke to the Biden administration and let them know they wanted to reclaim some of those doses, and the administration is letting them, Arwady said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many doses the city will be able to reclaim.
But Illinois will also be able to “temporarily redirect” about 97,000 vaccine doses, according to the state. The state will keep another 110,000 doses available for the partnership so the pharmacy chains can continue their vaccination work in long-term care facilities.
State and city officials have lobbied the federal government for more doses, saying they can handle many more and need more doses to speed up their vaccination campaigns.
The biggest thing holding back Chicago’s vaccination effort is the low amount of doses being sent here, Arwady said.
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