COVID vaccine

Chicagoans Over Age 18 Will Not Be Turned Away from Getting COVID Booster Shot, Arwady Says

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Chicago residents over the age of 18 won't be turned away from getting COVID-19 vaccine booster shots as health officials report "plenty of availability," the city's top doctor said Tuesday.

"You're not gonna get turned away from getting a booster if you're over the age of 18," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook Live event. "We have plenty of availability here."

Arwady noted that those of any age who want to get a third vaccine shot must be six months out from the second dose of their Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. For those who initially received Johnson & Johnson, the wait period is two months.

"We strongly, strongly recommend that anyone over the age of 65 get a booster," Arwady said. "We strongly recommend that anyone over the age of 50 with an underlying condition of any kind, get a booster."

Anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as their first dose is also encouraged to get a booster shot, she added. Arwady said she recommends a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as the extra dose, but the Johnson & Johnson shot will still provide protection.

"For people who do not have underlying conditions or who are younger than that, boosters are available and recommended for anybody over the age of 18 with any underlying condition or who is working or living or being in a potentially higher-risk setting," Arwady said.

In order to be fully vaccinated before the Thanksgiving holiday, people will need to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Thursday, according to Arwady.

Because both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses about two weeks apart, those shots will not provide full protection before Thanksgiving.

Here are additional deadlines to be vaccinated for upcoming holidays:

Hanukkah (Nov. 28)

  • Oct. 17: First dose of Moderna
  • Oct. 24: First dose of Pfizer
  • Nov. 14: Single dose of Johnson & Johnson

Christmas (Dec. 25)

  • Nov. 13: First dose of Moderna
  • Nov. 20: First dose of Pfizer
  • Dec. 11: Single dose of Johnson & Johnson

Kwanzaa (Dec. 26)

  • Nov. 14: First dose of Moderna
  • Nov. 21: First dose of Pfizer
  • Dec. 12: Single dose of Johnson & Johnson

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he's hopeful mask mandates will be lifted in time for the holidays, but urged caution as he said the state will rely on data for making that decision.

Speaking to reporters after delivering a COVID-19 update Tuesday encouraging booster shots for eligible Illinoisans, Pritzker said state health officials are "continuing again to watch the numbers" daily to "determine when the right time is," though he noted that the time is not now.

"I know pretty much every moment of every day you've wanted us to remove every single mitigation," he said. "Every question that you give is a question about removing mitigations. I want them to go away too, but we want to make sure that we're keeping people healthy and safe following the guidelines that doctors are offering for us. And so we'll continue to do that and obviously we want to remove the mitigations as we approach the holidays. These are, you know, that's an important marker for us."

Pritzker has said that continued declines in metrics would be required for the state to lift its mask mandate.

"We want to make sure these numbers keep going down. We'd like very much to head into, you know, we have three holidays coming up, but especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, where people spend extended amounts of time together, so we'd like very much to get to a place where we can remove certain mask mandates," he said.

Arwady agreed that mask mandates are likely here to stay for at least the coming weeks, though she urged even more caution heading into the holiday season.

"We remain in a substantial transmission standpoint from the CDC, and even if we continue to see progress at the rate we've been seeing it, I expect that would take probably at least another couple of weeks," Arwady told reporters. "My big question is what's happening between now and Thanksgiving, honestly."

Arwady said masking will remain even more important during the colder months.

"That's when we usually start to see respiratory viruses like flu really take off and we'll have a better sense," Arwady said. "My concern is I don't want to say hooray, let's take the mask off, two weeks later we have to put them back on."

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