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Everything we know about the coronavirus vaccine in Chicago

COVID-19 vaccines are on the way—here's what Chicagoans need to know.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

After months of development, the first coronavirus vaccines will likely be administered in Chicago before the end of 2020—and more doses (as well as additional vaccines) are likely on the way. It's a bit of good news at an especially troubling time for Chicago—and the rest of the United States—during the ongoing pandemic, as case numbers and hospitalization rates continue to rise to the highest levels to date.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady are starting to reveal the city's plans for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, beginning with the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to be approved first. Here's everything we know about the city's vaccine allotment, who will be prioritized and when Chicagoans can expect to gain access to the vaccine.

How many doses of the vaccine is Chicago getting?

According to Mayor Lightfoot, Chicago is expected to receive 23,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at some point during the week of December 14. The city expects to receive additional doses of the vaccine every subsequent week as well as doses of any other vaccines that are approved for use in the United States.

Who will get the vaccine first?

Mayor Lightfoot has stated that "healthcare workers who treat COVID patients or conduct procedures that put them at high risk for COVID-19 spread" will be given priority for receiving the vaccine. All of Chicago's 34 hospitals will receive doses of the initial vaccine allotment, with larger hospitals getting up to 2,000 doses and smaller hospitals getting a few hundred doses. In the coming weeks, CDPH will open vaccination clinics for other healthcare workers, offering appointments for those who qualify. There are roughly 400,000 healthcare workers in Chicago, so it will likely be several weeks until all of these individuals are vaccinated.

How will others know when they can get vaccinated?

The city is allowing hospitals to set their own prioritization procedure, based on the vaccination priority guidelines provided by the CDC. Updates will come frequently, but the CDC is recommending the prioritization of healthcare personnel, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, workers in essential and critical industries, people with certain underlying conditions and those who are 65 or older and therefore at increased risk to be negatively affected by the virus.

Where will you need to go to get a vaccine?

Dr. Arwady said that the goal is for people to get the vaccine through their healthcare providers, including doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers. Community-based organizations and other partners will also eventually have access to doses of the vaccine, so long as they have the facilities needed to safely store and administer it. The city is planning to use large centralized sites (such as city colleges) to distribute the vaccine while making sure that all parts of the city have access to it. "We’ll also have mobile sites which can be deployed in communities most impacted by the virus," Dr. Arwady stated in a release.

How much will the vaccine cost?

According to a press release, "The goal is for all Chicago adults to be able to get vaccinated in 2021 at no cost to any individual." While health insurance information may be requested when receiving a vaccine, the CARES Act requires that employer-provided and individual healthcare plans cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Will the city be tracking who does and does not get vaccinated?

According to Dr. Arwady, the city will be keeping track of who has received both of the COVID-19 vaccine shots (two doses are required for all but one of the proposed vaccines). When you receive your first dose of the vaccine, you'll be scheduled to receive your second dose. Mayor Lightfoot said that the city will be collecting demographic information of all individuals that are vaccinated in Chicago so that officials can understand which communities are being vaccinated and where it needs to focus its outreach.

Do people who have recovered from COVID-19 need to get a vaccine?

It's probably a good idea. According to the CDC, "early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long," though it stops short of recommending that those who have already contracted COVID-19 get the vaccine. Dr. Arwady has recommended that all Chicagoans be vaccinated so that everyone is protected.

Do you still need to practice social distancing after receiving the vaccine?

Yes! While the vaccines are highly effective, none is 100 percent effective, which means that COVID-19 transmission will still be possible as people are vaccinated. The CDC recommends continuing to use a face mask, washing your hands frequently and maintaining 6 feet of distance from others even after you have received both doses of the vaccine.

When will the majority of Chicagoans be vaccinated?

With vaccines still being developed, approved and manufactured at varying rates, it's very difficult to say when there will be enough supply to vaccinate the majority of Chicago residents. The process could very well last through much of 2021, depending on how many doses of the vaccine become available and how quickly providers are able to distribute it to individuals.

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