Hospitals in Illinois, Indiana Prepare For First Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine

Potential first-dose dates are being set at hospitals around the Chicago area as health care professionals see a shift in opinion about whether people will get the vaccine.

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Pfizer has already stored the initial doses of its vaccine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and near Kenosha, Wisconsin, awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.   

Chicago’s Mt. Sinai Hospital believes as soon as Tuesday it will be able to begin administering the vaccine to health care workers.

“We did an internal survey, and 70 percent of our employees ... are willing to get vaccinated,” said pharmacist Tejal Patel. 

"As a pharmacist, I feel this is very important, with the vaccine distribution, the vaccine being administered pretty much to all of our employees," Patel said.

The University of Chicago is expecting Wednesday, Dec. 16, to be the day it begins vaccinating staffers.

In Munster, Indiana, Community Hospital is designated by the state of Indiana as one of the first regional hospitals for northwest Indiana to begin the vaccination process within 24 hours of approval.

“We’ve done internal surveys of our entire health care population, and that’s about 10,000 employees across the health care system," Dr. Alan Kumar said. "And I will say that the mood has shifted. There were more people that did not want the vaccine than did want the vaccine early on. Further checking, we’re finding that mood is shifting: more people wanting the vaccine as data become available.” 

Even after the vaccine is approved, masks and social distancing will be needed for some time.

"The data surrounding whether the vaccine doesn’t let you get the virus, that’s great, but it doesn’t tell you whether you can still spread the virus," Kumar said. "We don't have answers on those types of questions.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might also issue warnings to those who are prone to side effects.

"Maybe they will ask people who have a history of anaphylactic reactions not to take it initially until we know maybe more," Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

While the general pubic may not receive the vaccinations for months, the health department in Lake County, Illinois, has already seen more than 70,000 residents sign up, wanting the vaccine. 

Lake County is making plans for mobile distribution, according to Director Mark Pfister, who says, “if the weather is really bad, then we’re going to use public works buildings as an example, where you can drive in one side, get your vaccine and then drive out the other side.”

Overall there’s a sense of positive anticipation. Patel from Mt. Sinai says, “if it was here today, I think we all want to take it as early as we can possibly get our hands on it.”

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