Chicago COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for health care workers by mid-December, city's top doctor says

ByJessica D'Onofrio, Craig Wall, and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Chicago COVID-19 vaccines could be ready by mid-December
Health care workers at Chicago's 37 hospitals will be given first priority when the city receives its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago health officials said Tuesday they anticipate they will begin vaccinating people for COVID-19 later this month.

"I think it's likely that we will be vaccinating here in Chicago, probably the third week of December or the fourth week of December depending on how the federal timeline pays out," said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner. "Which means literally two weeks from today, we could be talking about vaccination."

WATCH: Chicago's top doctor discusses COVID-19 vaccine plan

Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner said the city could be vaccinating by the end of December.

Vaccine advisers to the CDC voted 13-1 Tuesday to recommend both health care workers and residents of long term care facilities be first in line for any vaccines that receive FDA emergency use authorization.

The CDC is expected to approve the recommendations later this week, but they will be non-binding. It will be up to state and local officials to decide where the doses go first, but plans are in place to prioritize health care workers across the city.

The priority will be health care workers at Chicago's 37 hospitals, but even those workers are expected to be prioritized based on greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19.

"Those who are seeing COVID-19 patients as well as those who are performing procedures that put them at highest risk will be first," said Dr. Candace Robinson, Chicago Department of Health.

The next highest priority is expected to be the 128 long term care facilities in Chicago, like nursing homes.

Under Chicago's vaccine plan, thousands of the first doses would go to frontline healthcare workers immediately.

"We do not anticipate at this point on allocation per neighborhood," Dr. Arwardy said. "We want to make vaccine widely available. Certainly throughout Chicago, it will be prioritized based on on risk."

Chicago is expecting to receive an initial disbursement between 20,000-25,000 doses shortly after the first vaccine from Pfizer gets approved, which could happen on December 10 when the FDA meets to consider the request for emergency use.

"We are anticipating literally every single week getting additional allotments," Dr. Arwady said.

Those doses will be part of the 109,000 doses the state said it expects to get. Chicago will receive its own federal shipments with the state coordinating distribution for the suburbs and rest of Illinois.

Officials say people who've had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. And while the city is encouraging everyone to get the vaccine once it's more widely available, it won't be forced on anyone.

"We are not anticipating at this point a sort of a city requirement around vaccine or a national requirement around vaccine," Dr. Arwady said. "And in this early stage where it's still under emergency use authorization and where it's just not widely available, we would not anticipate vaccine mandates in any setting."

Gov. JB Pritzker echoed those sentiments, saying that there are not any state vaccine mandates, but they will look at the history of vaccines for context and things could change. He said the state expects to announce a tiered plan later this week.

Chicago is expected to update its COVID-19 travel quarantine order and release new details on how a vaccine would be rolled out locally on Tuesday.

Health care workers will be the first priority, but the state is promising equity as vaccines become more widely available.

RELATED: Chicago readies for COVID-19 vaccine as United starts shipping 1st bastches

"There are a lot of people who are very vulnerable, as you know, who have comorbidities, you know, who are in communities that have been ill affected because of the prevalence of disease just in general or the failure of health care in those communities," Gov. Pritzker said.

Officials hope to vaccinate 80-percent of Illinois residents - more than 10 million people - who need two doses of the same vaccine three or four weeks apart.

Pfizer is moving supplemental shipments from production in Belgium to a storage facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, so that the minute the FDA approves the vaccine for emergency use, those first shots will be ready to rush across the country.

The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage, which is something not every hospital has. And with many critical distribution points located in the Midwest, winter weather could cause disruptions.

"You get a major snowstorm, a lot of that is going to be delayed," said Prof. Hani Mahmassani, director of Northwestern University's Transportation Center. "If something were to happen at the source, at the production facilities, this is not being produced in many different locations. These are highly specialized locations right now."

RELATED: Chicago expected to play pivotal role in COVID-19 vaccine transportation, distribution

Chicago's vaccine shortage and distribution plan has already been well-crafted with expanded capacity for different temperatures, a plan to receive multiple vaccines and expanded hours and services at city clinics to distribute doses, health officials said.

"We actually used our flu clinics as an opportunity to practice for our COVID-19 vaccine administration," Robinson said.

Chicago's top doctors are hopeful that a vaccine will be available before the end of 2020.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said if the goal is to gets kids back to school as soon as possible, teachers should be on the priority list for a vaccine. He said teachers are ready.

RELATED: Will teachers be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine?

"I think the vast majority of teachers are going to get vaccinated when it's safe and appropriate," Montgomery said.

The goal is for the vaccine to be available to most Americans by next summer.

"By the time we get to April, they would likely have taken care of all the high priority and then the general population of the normal, healthy young man or woman -- 30 years old, who's got no underlying conditions [and] can walk in to a CVS or Walgreens and get vaccinated," said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Ezike is urging Illinois residents to be patient as the vaccines are rolled out.

"There's going to be like a phase 1-A and 1-B and 1-C, and that alone will take, you know, several months to roll out," Dr. Ezike said. "So it's not a matter of Dec. 10 -- maybe there's vaccines several days later. Great. We're all set."

Chicago updates emergency travel order

As Chicago prepares for a post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID cases, the city is updating its emergency travel order.

Eight more states, including Ohio, are now in the "red" highest-risk category. Anyone coming into Chicago from those states must quarantine for two weeks.

For the orange states, travelers have two options: either quarantine or test negative no more than 72 hours before arriving.

There are no requirements for the three yellow states: Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont. These changes take effect on Friday.

However, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said non-essential travel is still not recommended to yellow states.