Illinois’ Top Doctor on Vaccine Mandates, Booster Shots and More

Colder months are ahead, as well as a citywide vaccine mandate, a flu virus, emerging COVID-19 variants and new vaccines.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike joins “Chicago Tonight” to discuss the latest COVID-19 developments in Illinois as cases continue to climb due to the highly contagious delta variant. To prepare, The Illinois Department of Public Health is urging Illinois residents to follow mask and vaccine mandates as new vaccines become available to the public.

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Pfizer booster shots are now available to some Illinoisians, and children are expected to be approved to receive a vaccine in late November. With COVID-19 evolving, Illinois’ top doctor says she is hopeful that more people will be inclined to receive vaccines.

Preventing a “Twindemic”

The process to get a COVID-19 booster shot and a flu shot has become a lot easier. Both vaccines can be taken in one visit. According to Ezike, officials are trying to get as many people vaccinated for both viruses to avoid a co-pandemic.

According to data from the IDPH, about 18,000 Delta cases have been reported. New variants are expected to emerge during the flu season. Dr. Ezike and health officials are expecting an even greater surge in pandemic cases as the flu and the COVID-19 virus collide.

“We have our flu shots that are out there,” Ngozi said. “And the good thing is that you can get your flu shot and your COVID-19 shot at the same time.”

Ezike said she is not sure if there will be a flu virus present this year. Last year, Illinois did not experience the usual flu season.

New Vaccines Roll Out

A third Pfizer booster shot is now available to healthcare workers, those with an underlying disease or age 65 and older.

And Pfizer announced that children ages 5-11 could soon receive a vaccine in the next few months. Although Ezike said the vaccine could be offered for emergency use, she said it could still take time before the vaccine is administered in children.

She recommended that those with pre-existing conditions get their booster shot as they are more susceptible to the virus and COVID-19 variants.

“First priority is to get the [older adults] to get a [booster shot],” Ngozi said. “Kids aren’t as hard hit with COVID-19, but we still want to encourage vaccinations.”

She also said health care workers should get their booster shot as soon as possible.

The Vaccine Mandate

The city issued a vaccine mandate in early August requiring workers to show proof of vaccination. Now, that ruling goes into effect on Oct. 15 despite resistance from opposing groups.

People who are unvaccinated are required to have had at least two weeks go by since getting a second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The Truth is that the majority of Americans support mandates even before they started rolling out,” Ngozi said. “And the majority of healthcare workers and people from all these sectors including teachers support vaccinations. And they know how to protect our work environments.”

In a press conference last month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was adamant about Chicagoans getting their vaccine. About 7 million Illinoisans have been vaccinated and the remaining 5.7 million have not.

“We have to have a vaccine mandate,” Lightfoot said. “It’s for the safety of all involved, particularly members of the public who are interacting with city employees on a daily basis.  It’s important for colleagues to also feel like they have a workplace that is safe. So, a vaccine mandate from the city will come. And we’ll make specific announcements in the next coming days.”

Ngozi said she expects some pushback from groups but is still positive that the majority will follow the mandate.

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