Should a coronavirus vaccine be approved this week, Chicago could be giving out its first doses as early as next week, city officials announced Wednesday.
The city is preparing to receive 23,000 doses in its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, which could be the first vaccine to receive an emergency use authorization in the U.S.
Pfizer's vaccine is currently the center of a Thursday meeting where the Food and Drug Administrations' independent advisers will debate if evidence is strong enough to recommend vaccinating millions of Americans with the shot, which is already being administered in the United Kingdom.
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The FDA is also expected to discuss a request for emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 17.
Frontline healthcare workers, specifically those who treat COVID-19 patients, will receive priority for the first shipments of the vaccine, if approved. Those healthcare workers will be followed by residents and staff of long-term care facilities, then workers in essential and critical industries, those at high risk for severe infections due to underlying medical conditions and people 65 and older, according to CDPH.
In addition to the initial shipment of 23,000 doses, Chicago's Department of Public Health expects to receive additional doses of the vaccine each week, with a goal of vaccinating all adult residents in 2021 "at no cost to any individual."
“The situation is very fluid as we don’t know how many we’ll be getting from week to week, and that will require us to be nimble in how we respond. But I have complete confidence in the team we have assembled to handle this,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
"Some bothersome side effects" are possible with the vaccine, Chicago health officials said Wednesday, but the city's top doc said the risks of vaccine side effects are "far outweighed."
Health officials said side effects associated with the vaccine can last between one and two days and include fatigue, muscle aches and the occasional fever.
“The risk of side effects for 1-2 days after vaccination is far outweighed by the risk of severe illness and loss of life caused by COVID-19 infection,” Arwady said.
UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said 25-50% of 75,000 patients involved in the Pfizer and Moderna trials experienced some side effects. Fifteen percent of them were more serious and needed more than a day to recover.
“It's your body’s immune system trying to get activated because it’s seeing this new thing and the way that it gets activated is the way you’re feeling which is inflammation,” Chin-Hong said. “The virus is not in the vaccine, this vaccine is completely infection-free.”
The FDA said that while side effects of the Pfizer vaccine are common, there are “no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an [emergency use authorization].”
Chicago health experts say "overall, the vaccines have been well tolerated in clinical trials."
"These side effects are not dangerous. They indicate the vaccine is activating the body’s immune response against the virus that causes COVID-19 illness," a release from the city and the Chicago Department of Public Health states.