Chicago is preparing to enter Phase 1b of its COVID-19 vaccination plan on Monday, which makes doses available to frontline workers and individuals over the age of 65, city officials announced Thursday.
"Looking ahead to Monday, we will be formally starting to move into Phase 1b, and 1b includes Chicagoans over the age of 65, as well as a specific group of frontline essential workers," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
Arwady clarified that beginning Phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccinations does not end Phase 1a, prioritizing health care workers. She said health care workers remain eligible and prioritized through the city's dispensing points.
Chicago opened up the option this week for health care providers to give vaccinations to people over the age of 65 or individuals with underlying medical conditions using leftover doses not directed to health care workers, Arwady said.
Arwady discussed the vaccine rollout in a news conference Thursday morning at Harry S. Truman College. She was joined by 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman as well as two medical directors at CDPH.
Chicago's top doctor also received her second dose of the coronavirus vaccine Thursday morning.
The event came days after Arwady released new details about the city's coronavirus vaccine distribution plan, including tentative dates for when each of the next phases might begin, with a goal of opening vaccinations up to all Chicagoans over the age of 16 by the end of May.
Arwady announced in a livestream on Tuesday that the city will tentatively look to enter the next phase, Phase 1c, on March 29, followed by Phase 2 on May 31.
"I want to be very clear that any dates we provide are purely speculative based on how much vaccine we get," Arwady said. "Right now here in Chicago we're getting 34,000 approximate first doses… per week and that is not even enough to be able to vaccinate 5% of the people who are going to be eligible in Phase 1b."
Phase 1c includes all essential workers not covered in earlier phases, as well as Chicagoans between the ages of 16 and 64 who have underlying medical conditions, Arwady said.
"Looking ahead to Phase 2, which is really when a vaccine is available to all Chicagoans, we're tentatively saying that might begin May 31, the end of May. All of these numbers for Phase 1c and Phase 2 is subject to change but just to give people a high level sense of what we're thinking," Arwady said.
Officials also announced last week that the city would be opening six more Points of Dispensing (PODs) 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 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.
Chicago officials say the best way to get updates on the vaccination rollout is 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 you get the latest details on the city's vaccination plan - including notification when you can register to get your vaccine.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced last week that the state will begin its next phase of vaccinations, also known as Phase 1b, on Jan. 25. Phase 1b will include roughly 3.2 million Illinois residents, according to the state.
Pritzker said Friday beginning that this week, the state will be standing up "hundreds of vaccination sites across the state, including retail pharmacy chains, Illinois National Guard mobile teams, state-run mass vaccination locations in northern, central and southern Illinois, hospitals and urgent care locations, and ultimately, doctors’ offices and large employers who can host their own workplace clinics"
The Illinois National Guard was also activated to assist local health departments in expanding vaccination clinics, Pritzker said, with the first two teams deploying to Cook County Health Department sites.
Beginning on Jan. 25, the National Guard-led sites will begin vaccinating residents eligible under Phase 1b, as well as sites at CVS, Jewel Osco and Walgreens, Pritzker said.
All of those vaccination sites will be appointment only, Pritzker said, asking residents not to line up at the store or to call their local pharmacies. He said that before Phase 1b begins, the state will launch the Illinois’ COVID-19 Vaccination Administration Plan website to give residents information on finding a nearby vaccination site and how to make an appointment.