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No COVID-19 Booster Shots Needed Yet, Chicago’s Top Doc Says

The world needs to focus on vaccinating countries where fewer people have gotten their shots to prevent more variants, Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Syringes of the Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine wait for usage at a special COVID-19 vaccination event with live performances for arts & culture workers held at Theater Wit in Lakeview on May 21, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Booster shots may be needed to ward off coronavirus in the future — but they’re not the reality yet, Chicago’s top doctor said Thursday.

Moderna, makers of one of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, announced Thursday morning its vaccines offer powerful protection for at least six months after the second shot. But the company’s executives said they expect a third shot — a “booster” — will be needed this fall to prevent a winter surge of coronavirus, according to The New York Times.

Booster shots are being administered to vulnerable people in Germany, Israel and France, and President Joe Biden’s administration has considered doing the same in the United States, according to the Times report.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Thursday livestream that getting a third shot is not yet recommended for the general public in Chicago or the rest of the United States. More research needs to be done to determine if boosters will be necessary for the future, she said.

It is possible boosters could be recommended for people more vulnerable to COVID-19 in the future, Arwady said.

“I have not gotten a booster, to be perfectly clear; I have not recommended it for a single person,” Arwady said. “It’s something we may need in the future, but we may not. …

“I do think at some point we may see a booster recommendation … . We’re more likely to see that for particular populations.”

There’s been no evidence the vaccines used here are “significantly losing efficacy” as time goes on, Arwady said.

Notably, the latest wave of COVID-19 — which has been fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant — has had the deepest impact on unvaccinated people.

In June, 96 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois were not fully vaccinated, and the majority were younger than 60, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday.

In Chicago, about 97 percent of people who have been hospitalized with or died from COVID-19 since January were did not have all their shots, officials have said.

For now, third shots should be halted so more doses can be sent to the rest of the world, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The bulk of vaccines have gone to high- and upper-middle-income countries, with just .3 percent of doses going to low-income nations, according to a Time analysis.

Experts have said vaccines need to be distributed more evenly to protect people in more vulnerable countries — which, in turn, can prevent more variants from developing.

Settings where fewer people are vaccinated are more likely to see variants emerge, Arwady said.

“Getting the world vaccinated is just as critical as getting the U.S. vaccinated. We’re not gonna be able to booster, booster, booster, booster, booster our way out of this,” Arwady said. “We need to sort of think about some of this vaccine equity.”


• In Illinois, about 6.5 million people of all ages — or 51.29 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.

• Across the state, 24,988 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 13,362,088 vaccine doses of the 14,986,995 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.4 million Chicagoans — or 52.6 percent of all residents — have gotten fully vaccinated. About 59.1 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

The numbers:

• Fourteen Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Wednesday.

• At least 23,490 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,484 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 3,048 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,433,313.

• Since Wednesday, 63,057 tests were reported statewide. In all, 27,119,503 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 4.6 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 4.4 percent Wednesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 5.2 percent. It was at 5.1 percent Wednesday.

• As of Wednesday night, 244 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 102 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, two deaths were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,516 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than one death per day, a 57 percent increase from the week prior.

• Chicago has had 450 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 291,568 confirmed cases. An average of 260 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 39 percent increase from the week prior.

• At the same time, testing has increased 18 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 3.5 percent, up from 2.9 percent the week prior.

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