City health officials will allow Chicagoans 65 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting next week — if there are doses available after health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are vaccinated, the city’s top doctor told aldermen Wednesday.
Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city’s guidance would encourage doctors to prioritize older Chicagoans with health issues that put them at risk from severe illness or death from the coronavirus for the first available shots.
The goal is to ensure that no doses are wasted, Arwady said during a hearing of the City Council's Committee on Health and Human Relations.
It is not clear how many doses will be available for older Chicagoans as the city slowly starts the next phase of the nationwide vaccination effort, which has been sluggish and complicated by reluctance by some health care workers to get vaccinated, Arwady said.
There is no citywide registry to sign up to get the vaccine, Arwady said. Most Chicagoans will get vaccinated through their doctors, she added.
Chicago is getting 32,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine every week, Arwady said. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called for the federal government to “step up” its deliveries to Chicago.
The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden is expected to unveil its vaccination plan on Thursday, and that could have a big impact on the amount of vaccine Chicago gets after Biden takes office, Arwady said.
While demand for the vaccine is strong among health care workers not affiliated with hospitals, there has been more hesitancy among hospital-based health care workers than Arwady said she and her team expected.
“We didn’t see the uptake we were hoping to see,” Arwady said. “We know people are waiting.”
Arwady also told aldermen who pressed her about the number of Chicagoans being vaccinated that the data on the city’s portal is incomplete as hospitals work to send information to a state-run registry.
Vaccinations also lagged at long-term care facilities, Arwady said.
“That was a real surprise to us,” Arwady said.
“There are entire hospitals in the city of Chicago that have been vaccinating beautifully, but their data is still not coming through,” Arwady said.
Through Tuesday, 57,611 Chicago residents have gotten the first dose of the vaccine, and 16,441 of those people have gotten the second and final dose, according to CDPH data.
Approximately 2.1% of the city’s population has gotten at least one dose, according to the data.
Approximately 40% of vaccine doses are going to people who work in Chicago but live elsewhere, Arwady said.
The city plans to open two more mass vaccination sites for health care workers this week, in addition to the site now operating at Malcolm X City College, and is urging Chicagoans to apply to be trained to administer vaccinations, Arwady said Tuesday.
There are 362,000 Chicagoans who are older than 65, according to data presented to aldermen by Arwady.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 essential workers will also be eligible to be vaccinated in the next phase of the vaccination effort, which is not expected to start in earnest until February or March, Arwady said.
“We have got to get more than 32,000 doses a week,” Arwady said.
Those who are correctional workers, first responders, grocery store workers, educators, or work in manufacturing, public transit, agriculture and for the postal service will be eligible for vaccination during the next phase of the effort, according to city plans.