Health officials in Cook County laid out their plans Monday for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, saying that healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities will be among the first to receive the treatment.
The announcement was made during a press conference Monday, with officials saying that the county will begin administering the vaccine to eligible individuals this week.
“After a year that has presented unthinkable challenges to our residents, I’m grateful that the COVID-19 vaccine will become available in the coming weeks,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. “As we look toward 2021, it is my hope that this vaccine, and Cook County’s plan to administer the vaccine, will provide renewed hope that we are a step closer to a sense of normalcy.”
County health officials announced that the first phase of the vaccine rollout will be limited to two categories of residents:
-Healthcare workers, particularly those who treat COVID patients
-Residents and staff at long-term care facilities
According to the county, hospitals will vaccinate their own employees as the treatment rolls out, and long-term care facilities are part of a federal program that will work with pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, among others, to vaccinate residents and staff.
“We encourage all healthcare workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available,” Dr. Kiran Joshi, senior medical officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said.
Healthcare facilities are being encouraged to sign up for distribution of the vaccine, and the county has made information on that process available on its website.
As supply of vaccines increases, the county plans to make it available to all suburban Cook County residents who want to get it. The county will do some administration of the vaccine, but has also contracted with other companies and with pharmacies, and will make announcements on sites and other information on the administration of the vaccine when that info becomes available.
The county is also seeking to make sure that there is “equitable” distribution of the virus.
“We have watched minority communities suffer the brunt of this virus, the rate of illness and the rate of death,” Israel Rocha Jr., Cook County Health CEO, said. “There is nothing more important in healthcare than trust, and that important principle will be at the core of every effort to vaccinate our employees, our patients and our communities.”