Chicago's top health official received her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday as the city launched a new vaccination site for health care workers.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady was vaccinated at the site at Malcolm X College, where the city's COVID-19 vaccine "Point of Dispensing (POD) site" opened for health care workers who are not affiliated with a hospital, officials say.
"I am really, really pleased to be able to get my vaccine today. I have absolutely no hesitation about it. I've been anxious to get it. But I did not want to jump my place in line," she said, noting that the city has first been vaccinating hospital-based health care providers in accordance with federal guidance.
"I hope that you too, when it is your turn to get the vaccine, will have educated yourself, gotten your questions answered," she continued, repeating a message that the vaccine is safe and was widely tested in clinical trials. "We want questions. I want to hear what your worries are, what your questions are, I want you to get the facts, and then have the confidence hopefully, to make the decision for yourself and for your family to get vaccinated."
Arwady said she felt strongly about getting the first dose of the vaccine publicly to inspire confidence in the vaccine itself and encourage others to get vaccinated.
I have done all of the reading myself, so I have looked in detail at all of the trials and the research. I know also the process of how vaccines are approved. I know that no steps were skipped in terms of the safety of this," she said. "But I know that not everybody maybe has the time or the scientific background to be able to read all of those original studies. And so I feel absolutely secure in this vaccine, because I've looked at the safety profile. And I've looked and said, 'Man, this vaccine is 95% effective protecting against COVID. That is amazing. That is so much better than we were honestly anticipating the first COVID vaccines would be.'"
"I know the science behind exactly how it works," Arwady continued. "So I think for me getting vaccinated publicly, it says I'm not just encouraging you to get vaccinated - I myself certainly am excited to get this."
"People have a lot of questions about the vaccine - and they should," she added. "I welcome them, and I like to answer them. But being able to get it myself also just lets me I think be able to talk from a more personal place."
Arwady revealed Monday that more than 20,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to health care workers throughout the city of Chicago since the inoculations began.
The majority of those who have received the vaccine are hospital employees, however a small amount of emergency medical services personnel have also been vaccinated, Arwady said.
The 20,000 figure, Arwady emphasized, does not include health care workers who have been vaccinated in Chicago, but live outside city limits. No significant problems or unexpected side effects have been reported, according to the doctor.
With Chicago emphasizing equitable distribution as a strategy to combat COVID-19, city officials were asked Monday whether race and ethnicity data regarding vaccinations is available.
Arwady said that CDPH is only able to report data by ZIP code and age, but added race and ethnicity data is being collected by the state of Illinois. State officials hope to make the demographic data publicly available, officials said.
Approximately 16,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to be administered in the city by the end of the week, Arwady said. Similarly, the city anticipates more than 21,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine will be given over the same time period.
In the coming days, Chicago health officials plan to follow up with the city's 35 hospitals to learn how many staff members have been vaccinated in the past few weeks.
On Monday, vaccinations for employees and residents started at eight of the city's long-term care facilities. This week, additional doses of the vaccine will be distributed to dozens of outpatient facilities, which will vaccinate their own staff members.
Phase 1A of the city's vaccination plan, which is focused on health care workers and long-term care facility residents, could potentially last through February.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday that while vaccinations are the "light at the end of the tunnel...we are still very much in that tunnel."
"Just because we have a vaccine does not mean that the pandemic itself is over," she stated, calling on residents to continue to take measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. "We are still months away from widespread community distribution of the vaccine."