Chicago Health Officials Start to Roll Out COVID-19 Vaccine to Clinics, Long-Term Care Facilities

Video: Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady discusses Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout on “Chicago Tonight.” (Produced by Blair Paddock)

Five staff members at a health clinic that serves Chicago’s Latino community became the first Chicagoans to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Monday in an effort to highlight the continuing disproportionate impact of the pandemic in the city’s non-white communities.

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While Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged that while the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic had eased in recent weeks citywide, “portions of the Latinx community remain in crisis. I want to make sure we don’t lose sight of that.”

The city’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is 8.6%, according to data compiled by the Chicago Department of Public Health. Seven days ago, it was 11.1%.

There is now an average of 1,105 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. That’s down 17% in a week, according to city data.

However, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago is in the 60639 zip code, on the city’s Northwest Side, which includes Belmont Cragin, a primarily Latino community. There, the test positivity is 18.4%, more than double the citywide rate.

That is due, in part, to the fact that a high percentage of Latinos in Chicago work in jobs that they cannot perform from home, exposing them to the virus. Latino Chicagoans are less likely to stay home if they feel sick or seek medical treatment because of concerns about missed paychecks and their immigration status, Lightfoot said.

Delayed medical treatment has contributed to the fact that Latino Chicagoans die faster once hospitalized for COVID-19, Lightfoot said, urging everyone not to wait to seek help.

Chicago expects to get 16,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which will be used to start vaccinating staff members of outpatient clinics, doctors’ offices and long-term care facilities, said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Residents and staff at 26 of Chicago’s 128 long-term care facilities will get the first doses of the vaccine this week, with more coming in future weeks, Arwady said.

In addition, Chicago will open a mass vaccination clinic for health care workers on Tuesday at Malcolm X City College, Arwady said.

The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Chicago were administered at the Loretto Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (WTTW News)The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Chicago were administered at the Loretto Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (WTTW News)

Chicago received another 21,450 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will be sent to hospitals to continue vaccinating their workers, Arwady said. The Moderna vaccine, which does not have to be kept in ultra-cold storage, is best suited for non-hospital uses, she added.

By the end of February, all of Chicago’s 400,000 health care workers are expected to be vaccinated, Arwady said.

Chicago health officials do not yet have race and ethnicity data for those who have been vaccinated, only their age and zip code, Arwady said. However, that data will be published once it is available, she added.

The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Chicago were administered at the Loretto Hospital, in Austin, a primarily Black neighborhood, followed by the first doses of the Moderna vaccine at Esperanza Health Center in Brighton Park, a primarily Latino neighborhood. Lightfoot said that was by design.

By partnering with “trusted, local organizations,” Lightfoot said she was hoping to confront skepticism about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine among Black and Latino Chicagoans and encourage them to get vaccinated.

Approximately 21,000 Chicagoans were vaccinated between Dec. 15 and Saturday, Arwady said.

Despite the increasing number of vaccinations, the pandemic continues to rage, killing an average of 18 Chicagoans, Lightfoot said, urging everyone not to relax COVID-19 precautions.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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