Chicago health officials give update on rollout of new COVID vaccine booster shot

1.8M Chicagoans are eligible for the new COVID vaccine expected to target subvariants, but are they willing to get it?

Thursday, September 1, 2022
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The omicron booster is expected to target COVID subvariants.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As summer winds down, the day are numbered for sunny warm days and outdoor Farmers Markets.

With cold weather ahead, public health officials want people to think about COVID again. Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady has been urging Chicagoans to get the new, tweaked vaccine, which may be available as soon as Tuesday.

WATCH: Dr. Arwady gives update on COVID booster rollout

"Getting this updated vaccine now in September and October will be the best thing to help keep surge in control in November and December," Arwady said.

Chicago health officials gave an update Thursday on a rollout plan for new COVID boosters likely coming soon. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel will meet Thursday to consider updated COVID boosters. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a new formula Wednesday.

The booster is aimed at targeting the original strain of the virus as well as the omicron subvariants, which could mean more protection for Americans.

RELATED: US clears updated COVID boosters targeting newest omicron strain; shots could begin within days

Pfizer's tweaked vaccine was authorized for those 12 and older, and Moderna was authorized for adults 18 and older. It should be taken at least two months after the last shot.

Arwady said, if all goes according to plan with the CDC, Tuesday is the earliest Chicagoans can get the new updated vaccine.

The city has been allocated 150,000 initial doses. That's in addition to the 580,000 doses the state is expecting to get in the first week.

Arwady said there will be plenty of supply. During the first week, 90 retail pharmacies and 25 healthcare facilities, like hospitals, will get doses, and so will some health department vaccination sites.

"We are working with the aldermen to make sure there is going to be at least one vaccine location in every ward," Arwady said.

While the federal government is not prioritizing certain demographics, as it has done in the past, Dr. Arwady said the city will make sure older people and the most vulnerable get it first.

Next week, 90 retail pharmacies, 25 healthcare facilities and some city sites will get the doses first.

But, are people willing to get the shot?

"If they say it's safe and effective and the better thing to do than absolutely, I listen to the medical professionals," said Andy Horton.

Estelle Martin is also willing to get the shot.

"I'm willing to go the next step to protect myself and others as well," Martin said.

Ladana Ford feels differently.

"I'm just not interested. I've had all the vaccines I'm going to take," Ford said.

Arwady urged residents get it before a fall and winter surge.

"I worry a lot that people may say 'oh I'm just gonna wait,' and then by the time they decide to get it, either we'll already be in a surge and it'll be too late to get the extra protection, or worse they will have missed the window for really good protection and the virus may have mutated further," Arwady said.

Arwady is also concerned about vaccine hesitancy.

Booster rates nationwide and in Chicago remain low. The city will combine its fall flu campaign with the new booster.

This updated booster will replace the current boosters, and it's for people who have already taken their primary doses.

RELATED: COVID update: Illinois reports 4,674 new cases, 12 deaths

Doctors said they are designed to work against COVID-19 subvariants, which make up more than 99% of new cases.

These updated boosters are critical in helping protect teens and adults from the most serious outcomes of COVID-19," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said during a news conference Wednesday.

WATCH: Who should be getting updated COVID vaccine booster shots?

With 1.8 million Chicagoans eligible for the updated vaccine, Arwady said it will be all hands on deck to convince people to get it.

"This updated vaccine truly is the best protection out here and it's better protection and different than we have offered to date," Arwady said.

As it did during the first vaccine rollout, the city plans to use outreach workers, faith leaders and various organizations to educate people on the new vaccine, and Arwady said getting healthcare providers on board is critical.

If the CDC panel votes in favor of recommending the shots, the final go-ahead could come Thursday night or Friday.