Coverage Note: NBC 5 will have live coverage of the administration of the first doses of coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday morning in the player above.
Health officials around the state are preparing for a momentous day Tuesday, as the first doses of the new coronavirus vaccine will be administered at multiple hospitals after nearly eight months of watching as the pandemic ravaged the lives of thousands.
That vaccine is arriving just as numbers in suburban Cook County continue to climb. Since Dec. 11, the county has seen more than 11,000 confirmed cases, and with hospitals growing increasingly concerned about bed and ICU availability, health officials want to ensure that the rollout of the vaccine goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
“We want to make sure there are no dead zones,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said. “We’re identifying locations and partners throughout the county.”
Officials say that they will pull out all the stops to ensure that patients will be able to access the vaccine when it becomes more widely available, partnering with hospitals, doctors’ offices and pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.
Those types of partnerships will be key, as Cook County officials hope to ensure that historically-underserved populations in the county can access the treatment, and feel safe in doing so.
“We are in the process of identifying a host of places for the vaccine, whether it’s church basements or parking lots or community centers or schools,” Rubin said. “These are facilities that people trust, (and) we have 700 square miles to cover.”
Officials also say that when the general public has access to the vaccine that they will be able to even get the treatment at drive-thru facilities, but the key in every instance is to take the vaccine to where the people are.
“We are trying to identify and know where these places are, and to understand that there’s where resources need to be prioritized,” Rubin said. “We also want to dispel any myths and distrust and hesitancy that we have bene hearing about throughout the county.”
Numerous facilities throughout the city and suburbs, including the Hines VA hospital, Loyola Medicine and Silver Cross Hospital are expecting their first shipments of the vaccine this week, and intend to start administering the treatment to employees who work with coronavirus patients.
Due to the conditions in which the vaccine must be stored, the shots must be used within five days, so time is of the essence for officials.
“It’s a precious resource, and we must make sure we use every last dose,” Dr. Atul Gupta of Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox said. “That’s why we have to put together vaccine clinics over the next few days.”
The first doses of the vaccine in Chicago will be administered at Loretto Hospital, while Gov. J.B. Pritzker will travel to Peoria as doses of the vaccine will be administered to healthcare workers there.
Stay tuned throughout the day to NBC 5 Chicago for the latest details.