As health care workers around the U.S. begin to receive the first vaccinations against the coronavirus, some hospitals across the Chicago area are still waiting on their shipments of the vaccine.
A spokeswoman for Loyola University Medical Center in suburban Maywood said Wednesday that the hospital system was told it would not receive its doses of the vaccine until as early as Thursday. The vaccine was produced by Pfizer and approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week, with shipments sent across the nation beginning Sunday.
Loyola leadership said its Maywood campus would be the vaccine hub for 10,000 health care workers at three hospitals on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. Loyola expected to receive 3,000 doses of the vaccine in its first shipment, which will first go to bedside workers, intensive care and emergency room nurses and doctors, followed by testing site employees and outpatient workers.
While some doses have arrived in Chicago - and the first ones were administered on Tuesday - Loyola's shipment falls under the Illinois Department of Public Health's jurisdiction. Loyola's Regional Chief Clinical Officer said the hospital has proper storage facilities for the vaccine, which must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, but the arrival is a matter of transport from the state's facility.
Dr. Richard Freeman said they are staying flexible, noting IDPH has never done anything like this before, but adding that he feels hopeful.
“We’ve been playing defense for the last 10 months and this is a chance to play offense," Freeman said. "So we’re very excited - excited to start this process, then move on."
The first four people to get a dose at Loyola have already been chosen: a doctor, a nurse, a respiratory therapist and a member of the cleaning staff.
Edward Hospital, located in suburban Naperville, was notified Tuesday that it would receive its allotment of 1,950 doses of the vaccine on Thursday. A spokeswoman for the University of Chicago Medicine said early Wednesday that the hospital system had not received its shipment yet but planned to begin vaccinating staff on Thursday pending its arrival.
The Cook County Department of Public Health had also not received its supply of the vaccine, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, anticipating it would arrive Thursday.
Rush University Medical Center said Wednesday the hospital had not received specifics on when its shipment would arrive but a spokesman noted that when they do receive an arrival window, the hospital will have five hours notice before they can begin vaccinations. The spokesman also said it the shipment isn't on site by 1 p.m., that would push the vaccinations to the following day.
AMITA Health operates several facilities, including St. Alexius Medical Center Hoffman Estates where the first identified coronavirus case in Illinois and the second in the nation was treated. While vaccinations at that facility - some for staff that treated that first patient - were initially scheduled to begin Wednesday, a spokesman for AMITA Health said they would be pushed back until Friday morning.
AMITA Health's first vaccinations were slated to be held at Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet at 3 p.m., the spokesman said.
A spokeswoman for OSF HealthCare said Wednesday that the health system "experienced a delay" getting its doses of the vaccine to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, noting they were "awaiting word from the state" on when the vaccine would arrive.
Meanwhile, Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood planned to conduct its first vaccinations on Thursday afternoon, inoculating five Latino health care workers. A spokeswoman for the hospital noted that it serves a majority-Latino population that has seen some of the highest positivity rates in testing in the city.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the existing disparities in our health care system that have severely impacted underserved communities like Humboldt Park,” Norwegian's President and CEO José R. Sánchez said in a statement. “To control the spread of COVID-19, we must have a plan that makes including the Latino community a priority in this country.”
Hospitals in Chicago, across Illinois and around the country began to vaccinate health care workers on Tuesday. The first shipment of Pfizer's vaccine arrived in Illinois on Monday, with thousands of doses then being processed to go to hospitals across the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
Pritzker's office said the first shipment, delivered to the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile, contained approximately 43,000 doses of the vaccine.
Chicago received a shipment on Monday as well, one of five local health departments to receive direct shipments independent of the state. The four others include: Cook County Department of Public Health, Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center, Madison County Health Department, and St. Clair County Health Department.
Chicago is slated to receive roughly 23,000 doses of the vaccine in the coming days, with more scheduled to arrive after the first wave. Those doses are part of the approximately 109,000 allotted to Illinois in the first round of shipments.
Chicago administered the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine to five health care workers on Tuesday in what city officials touted as an "historic" moment at Loretto Hospital on the city's West Side.
Dubbing the day "Vaccine Day" in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said "we have finally and at long last officially taken our first steps in our long road toward COVID vaccination."
Chicago's top doctor called it "the beginning of what will be the end of COVID-19 in Chicago."
"There is nothing I wanted more for Christmas than a vaccine that looked like this," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said after witnessing the first vaccinations.
City officials thanked both the workers who received the vaccine and those who administered it.
"They are forever now part of history in the city of Chicago and I think they recognize how important it is for them and for our city," Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot praised the first vaccinations but noted Tuesday that "widespread community distribution of the vaccine is still months away."
"While we can see light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in the tunnel," Lightfoot said, noting she was quoting an unnamed doctor. "We still have places in our city where this terrible virus is ravaging the body, mind and spirit of so many. We will be here unfortunately for months to come."
Also Tuesday, the first doses to be administered outside of Chicago were given in Peoria, with Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike witnessing.
"This is a beginning for the state of Illinois," Pritzker said at the event.
When it comes to who will get the vaccine first, Chicago and Illinois health officials have long said they would follow federal public health guidelines to first vaccinate health care workers on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic. The city has said there are roughly 400,000 health care workers in the city, including doctors, nurses and other hospital staff.
"We will shortly, just within the next couple of weeks, be expanding to long-term care facilities, both staff and residents there," Arwady said. "Then we're expecting by approximately the end of year late December, early January to start also moving into the space of outpatient health care providers."
After frontline health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, the city says priority will be given to workers in essential and critical industries including emergency services personnel, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions and people ages 65 and older.
"We've already been at this for nearly a year and I think we're going to be at it for probably another year by the time we really get to the point where this is in the rearview mirror," Arwady said. "But it is within our power to keep this virus in control. You know the things that work - please continue to do them."