Health care providers can begin giving coronavirus vaccines to people over age 65 who live or work in Chicago in a modified next phase of the city's vaccination plan, officials announced Thursday.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced the shift alongside Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a news conference from a new mass vaccination site.
Hospitals and outpatient sites enrolled as COVID-19 vaccine providers are instructed to continue to prioritize health care workers, particularly non-hospital based health care workers in Phase 1A, per the city's updated vaccination plan.
But beginning Jan. 18, if providers have doses of the vaccine available and do not have health care workers scheduled for vaccination, they can move to a new Phase 1B that allows those over age 65 to get the vaccine.
Prioritization will be given to those over age 75 or those over age 65 who have significant underlying conditions, Arwady said.
Officials also announced Thursday that the city will be opening six more Points of Dispensing (PODs) mass vaccination sites but noted that those sites will continue to focus only on Phase 1A health care workers, by appointment only.
Arwady noted that those who qualify, namely those over 65, for vaccinations in this next modified phase do not have to register anywhere and that health care providers will be the ones primarily administering the vaccines.
"I don't want to give people the impression that they can sign up for an appointment just yet," Arwady said, but added that that option would be available "very soon."
Chicago health officials on Wednesday confirmed that some of those who qualify in Phase 1B could begin vaccinations next week "only with leftover doses not claimed by health care workers & long-term care facility residents."
While the move is not the full Phase 1B initially planned for the city, it comes on the heels of a request from federal officials who this week asked states to vaccinate people age 65 and over and those under 65 with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to announce this week when Illinois will enter Phase 1B of its coronavirus vaccine rollout, though some areas may already be allowed to do so.
"I expect to make a formal announcement later this week on when Illinois
will move into Phase 1B on a statewide basis," Pritzker said during his coronavirus update Monday. "Of course, anyone in Phase 1A who has chosen not to get vaccinated yet will always be able to opt in during any subsequent round – this is about leaving no vaccine sitting on the shelves as we move forward."
As of Monday, 587,900 total doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been delivered to Illinois, 478,175 doses had been sent to public and private healthcare providers outside of Chicago and 109,725 doses had gone to providers in Chicago.
Illinois as a whole had administered approximately 334,939 vaccine doses as of Sunday night.
Chicago health officials had initially said they expected Phase 1B will begin in the city in February or March.
"A lot depends on how quickly vaccine comes to us," Arwady previously said. "We get about 32,000 doses of first doses of vaccine a week right now. You think about how many people there are over 65 - 370,000 - how many essential workers - hundreds of thousands, 150,000, just in education - there is going to have to be some patience here. But I would expect that we will likely be beginning, you know, in the sort of February to March timeframe, and then we'll continue to vaccinate through, you know, over these next few months."