While the state of Illinois plans to make all adults eligible for the coronavirus vaccine next week, Chicago won’t immediately follow suit, and health officials elaborated on their reasons for the delay during a press availability Tuesday.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that the decision to make all adults eligible for the vaccine on April 19, rather than April 12, comes down to one key ingredient:
“The only thing that’s been holding us back is just the amount of supply,” Arwady said. “I was pleased to see President Joe Biden doubling down on asking all of us to make sure that the vaccine is available by the 19th of April for all Americans.”
Biden made the announcement on Tuesday, moving up from the original target of May 1. The U.S. is seeing more than 3 million vaccine doses a day administered, and as a result the administration is pushing hard to ensure that all Americans can get access to the coronavirus vaccine in the coming weeks.
The state of Illinois had previously announced all residents 16 and older will be eligible to receive vaccines beginning on Monday. The city of Chicago actually considered moving up its expansion of eligibility, according to Arwady, but was stopped from doing so by vaccine availability concerns.
“We had been discussing that possibility, partly because we have been seeing cases being driven so much by the 18-to-29-year old age group in Chicago and thinking about wanting to follow where the data is, and to push vaccine where it’s most needed,” Arwady said. “The only hesitation has just been vaccine supply.”
Lightfoot said that the city has tried not to create unrealistic expectations as it continues to expand vaccine eligibility, another reason the city has opted to go with a later expansion.
“We have thought about it, but again, I don’t like to create expectations that we can’t meet,” she said. “We feel like we’re going to be in a better place by (April 19).”
Arwady says the issue in Chicago has not been one of efficiency. She says that the city’s goal is that 95% of its vaccine doses should go out to providers within one week of arrival, and says that the CDPH has met that goal every week.
The city is also pushing for 85% of those delivered vaccines to be administered within a week of receipt, and she says that providers are helping the city to do just that.
“It’s a pretty audacious goal, and we have hit that every week,” she said. “We’ve been hitting over 90, even 95% of our vaccine efficiency goals each week.”
Both Arwady and Lightfoot said they have asked the federal government for additional assistance in obtaining more coronavirus vaccine doses to help meet the demands that will come with an expansion of availability, and both expressed confidence that they will receive additional doses in coming weeks.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 16.59% of Chicago’s residents are fully vaccinated. Nearly 1.3 million doses have been administered so far.