coronavirus illinois

Chicago Residents Could Take Another Year and a Half to Vaccinate at Current Rate, Lightfoot Says

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Chicago residents could take another year and a half to vaccinate if coronavirus vaccine doses continue arriving in the city at the current rate, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

"At the rate we've been on, Chicago won't be fully vaccinated for another year and a half -- and that is completely and totally unacceptable," Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said the federal government is not delivering the promised quantity of vaccines, especially over recent weeks. Chicago has received less doses in the last two weeks than in initial shipments.

"My only wish is that we'd have enough doses to vaccinate everyone right now," Lightfoot said. "And finally move forward out of this terrible pandemic and to get our lives and our world back on track. But we will get there. I'm confident of that."

Two weeks ago, Lightfoot said Chicago received just 38,000 doses, and last week the shipments dropped to 32,000 doses. During a press conference Thursday, she called on federal officials to provide more vaccine doses.

"Now, the federal government must step up for us," Lightfoot said. "And by us, I mean the residents, not just of Chicago, and Illinois, but of the entire country. We need a federal government who is on the side of the people, and the vaccine is the most critical thing that we need to be engaged with the federal government on right here right now."

Lightfoot added that the only way to ramp up vaccinations across the city and nation is for the federal government to send more first doses to cities and states immediately.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady backed the mayor's comments saying the only way to move forward in the pandemic is through additional vaccine doses.

Arwady added that she has heard positive news from Washington with the Biden Administration promising to send more vaccines to states once the term begins next week.

"So I'm feeling optimistic about this," Arwady said. "We're hearing good things. But part of the reason we haven't yet been able to fully open is because we have to make sure that every dose is going out and being used, but that the people who are at the highest risk for COVID are getting the opportunity for this vaccine."

City officials announced Thursday that 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.

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 Thursday, 972,750 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been delivered to Illinois with 414,296 administered. Based on Illinois Department of Public Health data, 268,525 doses have been allocated to long term care facilities with 51,891 administered.

Illinois is reporting a 7-day rolling average of 26,703 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, data showed.

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