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How, where and when will I be able to get the vaccine in Chicago?

Here's the latest on the city's vaccination plans.

Zach Long

Do you have questions about Chicago's COVID-19 vaccination rollout? Over the past few weeks, the city has shared many details about its plans for the coming months, including a detailed (but very tentative) phased schedule for vaccination eligibility—not to be confused with the Illinois phased reopening plan.

A limited number of Chicago residents began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020, and the general public will likely become eligible to receive the vaccine during the summer of 2021. Keep in mind that Chicago's current plan is dependent on vaccine supply and availability. As of February 2, the city is getting more than 50,000 doses per week, so the schedule will likely change if that number increases or decreases.

We've assembled everything we currently know about Chicago vaccination program and answered some of the most frequently asked questions below. We'll keep you updated as we learn more about how, where and when the vaccine will be made available to Chicago residents.

When can I get the vaccine in Chicago?

If you're a healthcare worker or an individual over the age of 65 with significant underlying conditions, you're eligible to receive a vaccine now. Everyone else will become eligible in phases, according to a tentative plan released by the Chicago Department of Public Health that is dependent on the number of doses the city receives in the coming weeks.

The tentative schedule predicts that frontline essential workers and anyone 65 or older will become eligible at the end of January; those with "high-risk medical conditions" and all other essential workers will be up for vaccination at the end of March. Everyone else over the age of 16 will become eligible at the beginning of June. Read on for a more detailed outline of Chicago's phased vaccination program, and keep tabs on the latest updates via the Chicago COVID vaccine website.

All of these dates are subject to change and estimate when you’ll be able to get the first of two doses that you’ll need.

Phase 1A (now)

The first phase of Chicago's vaccination distribution program is focused on providing doses to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. As of January 18, the city has authorized vaccination providers that have vaccines available and do not have tier 1A healthcare workers scheduled for vaccination to provide doses to patients over 75 years of age or patients over 65 years of age with significant underlying conditions who live or work in Chicago.

Phase 1B (began on January 25)

In this phase, individuals who are 65 or older and those deemed "frontline essential workers" will be given access to the vaccine. According to the CDC, frontline essential workers include "workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and are at substantially higher risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2." That means first responders (firefighters, police); educators (teachers, support staff, daycare); food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers, corrections workers, U.S. Postal Service staff, public transit workers and grocery store workers will be the priority.

Phase 1C (~March 29)

This phase will include all persons aged 16–64 years with "high-risk medical conditions" (a list of eligible conditions is forthcoming) and all essential workers that were not recommended for vaccination in Phase 1B, such as those in the transportation, food service, finance, energy, media, legal and public safety industries.

Phase 2 (~May 31)

This is the point at which all Chicagoan ages 16 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine, regardless of medical conditions or the industry in which they work.

How will I know it’s my turn?

For the latest updates on vaccine eligibility, Chicago residents can register with Chi COVID Coach. CDPH director Dr. Allison Arwady also hosts livestreams via Facebook and Twitter outlining the latest developments in Chicago COVID-19 vaccination program. As the vaccine becomes more widely available, it's likely that those interested in receiving it will be able to register for appointments with their preferred provider.

Where can I sign up for an appointment?

The city recently launched a free vaccination scheduler in partnership with Zocdoc, allowing Chicagoans who are eligible to receive the vaccine to access a list of available appointments and book a time to get a shot. Residents can browse available appointments and register for additional information via the Zodoc website. While this tool will make it easier to find an appointment, demand for the vaccine remains higher than the supply, so appointments will likely remain scarce for the time being. Reaching out to your healthcare provider is another good option, as many providers have started to receive doses of the vaccine to administer.

Where will I be able to get the vaccine?

During Phase 1A, vaccinations have been administered on-site at hospitals and residential facilities as well as six mass vaccinations sites in city colleges—that's likely to continue during Phase 1B. In future phases, vaccinations will be available through doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers. It's also possible that the city will continue operating mass vaccination sites.

How much does it cost?

If you receive the vaccination at a CDPH vaccination site, there will be no cost. Those with healthcare insurance will not be charged for the vaccine, no matter where they choose to receive it. The Centers for Medical Care and Services has also stated that those who are uninsured will be able to receive the vaccine at no cost. It's worth double-checking with your vaccination provider to see if there are any fees, but chances are that you can receive the vaccine free of charge when you become eligible.

How many shots do I need?

For the two vaccines available right now, you’ll need two doses, administered 21 days apart for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 28 days apart for the Moderna vaccine. Johnson & Johnson is also readying a single-dose shot that’s expected to receive FDA approval in February.

I’ve already had COVID-19. Do I still need a vaccine?

Yes. While past infection is thought to provide some immunity, it's unclear how long how much immunity it provides or how long it lasts. CDPH is recommending that those who have contracted COVID-19 in the past receive the vaccine.

Do I still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing once I’ve been vaccinated?

Yes. While clinical trials have proven the vaccines to trigger an effective immune response, we still don’t know how that translates into the real world—perhaps most importantly, we don’t know yet if it’ll prevent you from spreading the virus to others. So you’ll likely still be subject to all of the state’s and county’s rules on mask wearing, social distancing and quarantining. As more people are able to receive the vaccine, mask-wearing and social distancing rules may be relaxed in some instances.

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