Chicago launched a new site where residents can schedule coronavirus vaccine appointments, but how can residents receive a vaccination without going online?
Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a press conference Tuesday that the city has a variety of ways to ensure residents who do not have internet access can still receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The city's primary approach for people not digitally-connected is through health care providers, Arwady said, many of which are reaching out to patients to inform when a vaccine will be available to them.
"This also helps to make sure that our vaccine is going to Chicago residents, people who get ongoing medical care in Chicago," Arwady said. "And it really helps us, as we saw in this data from this last week, get to our older Chicagoans (vaccinated), who in many cases may not be as connected to the internet."
She added that through Chicago Protect and other outreach programs, some workers are headed door-to-door offering residents the opportunity to book a vaccination appointment through the city.
Chicago officials are additionally working with churches and community-based organizations to create vaccination POD sites for area residents, Arwady said.
The city's new online platform, done in partnership with Zocdoc, will show appointment availability for city POD sites, as well as "care organizations" like AMITA Health, Erie Family Health, Innovative Express Care and Rush University Medical Center.
The new site aims to create "a central marketplace to help Chicagoans access vaccinations," officials said.
“Our goal in Chicago is to vaccinate as many residents as possible as fast as we can,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “While vaccine availability is still very limited nationwide, this exciting new partnership with Zocdoc is another step toward empowering individuals and families as we fight this disease and lean into the historic recovery that is sure to follow.”
The Zocdoc Vaccine Scheduler will be free of charge and "is designed to streamline vaccine scheduling," the city said in a release. Chicago is the first city to implement the service.
Here's how it works:
- To begin, Chicago residents can visit zocdoc.com/vaccine.
- Once there, users will be asked to confirm their location and eligibility.
- If eligible under Illinois guidelines, Zocdoc will show nearby vaccination locations and their real-time appointment availability.
- Eligible patients will then be able to select a date, time, and location, and instantly book an appointment online. If no appointments are available, residents can sign up to be notified when new options come online.
- There will be embedded translation support for more than 100 languages, including Spanish.
- NOTE: Officials are still asking residents to be patient as vaccine rollout continues. Appointments are expected to be added as the city continues to receive doses.
The city noted that "supply of vaccines is currently very limited," but said appointments will be added "on an ongoing basis as more vaccines are allocated to providers." Officials also expect more local healthcare providers - including other hospital systems and Federally Qualified Health Centers - will join in on the scheduling partnership.
Arwady added that Chicagoans are still encouraged to seek a vaccine appointment first with their primary care providers, if they have one, and also through local pharmacies or their employers, if available.
"Zocdoc provides a great service that will help people access vaccines as the supply increases over the coming weeks and months, and Chicago residents can also sign up to be notified when new appointments become available,” Arwady said in a statement. “We will still need people to be patient as the vaccine rollout continues, but we’re excited about this partnership as it provides Chicagoans another option to connect with providers as they receive more vaccine.”
For a complete guide to vaccine information across Illinois, click here.
Previously, Chicagoans were encouraged to sign up for vaccine information through "Chi COVID Coach," a platform the Chicago Department of Public Health is using to monitor symptoms, giving information on testing in the city and help give the latest details on the city's vaccination plan - including notification when you can register to get your vaccine.
But like the rest of Illinois, many residents have struggled to find access to appointments as they city grapples with limited vaccine supply and heightened demand, with Phase 1B opening up doses to a much wider population.
Phase 1B opens up vaccinations to people age 65 years and older as well as "frontline essential workers," which includes first responders, education workers like teachers and support staff, childcare workers, grocery store employees, postal service workers and more.
While anyone who qualifies for the vaccine in the phase is eligible to receive it, Chicago's Phase 1B aims to prioritize certain populations, health officials have said.
"So right from the beginning I want people to hear that even as the phase opens up, most people will not be able to get vaccine right away that first week, even that second week, etc.," Arwady said, adding that she hopes to get most people in Phase 1B vaccinated through February and March.
For those receiving the vaccine through the city, there will be prioritization for those with the highest risk and to help "lower barriers," Arwady said.
"The way this will broadly roll out is that over the months of February and March, anybody who is in either 65 or these frontline essential workers is eligible for vaccine," Arwady said. "And so for example, if I am a grocery store worker or I am a teacher or I work in public transit, and I have an appointment with my doctor, for example, my doctor absolutely can give me vaccine at any point after Jan. 25, but we will also be working to bring vaccine to employers, to partner with employers to lower the barriers for these groups to get vaccine."