coronavirus vaccine

Chicago Could Begin Vaccinating Phase 1C Earlier Than Expected, Officials Say

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After previously announcing Phase 1C would likely begin at the end of March, Chicago's top doctor said Tuesday that the city could begin the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations earlier than anticipated.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city could begin vaccinating those eligible in Phase 1C at an earlier date, based on an increase of available COVID vaccine doses in the state."

However, Arwady noted that as of Tuesday, the estimated state date would not change, nor any eligibility criteria.

"We'll make adjustments to that as we always have, as we see how vaccine doses come in," Arwady said. "But honestly, the way they've been coming in is about how I've expected them to come in. March is going to look a lot better than February did related to vaccine. And I think April is going to look a lot better than March."

Arwady has said Phase 1C would likely begin March 29 and Phase 2, which includes all residents over the age of 16, could begin May 31.

"It may be sooner than expected, but that timeline that we laid out actually continues to look pretty consistent with our numbers," Arwady said. "If you recall, we really said the end of March, March 29, was where we were guessing we might be at a point to be able to move ahead into 1C and then, the end of May is when we might be able to move ahead to Phase 2 and I haven't seen anything that really suggests major, major differences from that."

Official information on Phase 1C eligibility has not been released by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, based on the Illinois Department of Public Health website. Health officials noted that possible groups could include "other essential workers."

Arwady added that should Chicago receive "a lot more vaccine" in March, it's possible that officials could begin vaccinating those with underlying conditions. However, she said the focus currently is to ensure people at the highest risk are vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, the city was averaging 283 new coronavirus cases per day, which is under the 400 daily cases threshold. Arwady said her goal is to get Chicago under 200 cases per day.

Chicago has also seen the lowest test positivity rate since COVID-19 came to the city, Awady announced, sitting at 2.9% on Tuesday.

Though Illinois as a state has yet to announce planned dates for future vaccine phases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker addressed the question Wednesday saying he's "anxious" to get to subsequent phases but doesn't have a timeline.

"I don't want to speculate. It's very hard to say exactly because I don't have a projection out far enough to really know, but I'm anxious, I think like we all are, to get to phase 1C and beyond," Pritzker said during a press conference. "We want to get everybody vaccinated as soon as possible but we're trying to get to all of the most vulnerable populations first."

Last week, Illinois moved into a new phase called Phase 1B Plus, which expands eligibility to those with high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities, including cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, pulmonary disease, among others. The list also includes those with obesity and women who are pregnant.

The expansion applies to those 16 and older who weren't otherwise covered in previous eligibility categories.

Chicago, along with several suburbs and health care systems, opted to not enter the expanded phase, citing limitations with supply.

For a complete look at where and how you can make an appointment in Illinois or where you can receive vaccine information for your area, click here.

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