Chicago expands COVID vaccine eligibility to 1C Monday as cases rise

Cook County released 25K 1st dose appointments Sunday
RIVER GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- As Chicago gets ready to move into the next phase of its vaccination plan, some of those already with appointments waited patiently for their turn outside the United Center -- one of the few sites to operate a Sunday schedule.

"I'm happy. I have to do it. I have an elderly mom at home and she can't come out right now and I have to make sure she's OK," said Debra McGee, who got her vaccine Sunday.

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"I feel much better now," added Israel Contreras, who also got his 1st dose at the United Center. "But trust me, I can't wait to get the second one and move on."

As of Monday, hundreds of thousands of additional Chicagoans will join the list of those already qualified. The next group includes anyone over the age of 16 with underlying conditions and all essential workers who were not previously included.

With the expansion to 1C, the majority of Chicago's adult population is now eligible to get a vaccine. However, officials continuing to urge patience as eligibility does not guarantee an immediate appointment.

"It took me a while," said Michelle Gerol. "The process was a little frustrating, but once I got it, it was like finding the good ticket from the Willy Wonka movie."

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Elsewhere across the state, eligibility continues to vary based on vaccine availability. Cook County has yet to announce when it will open access to those in 1C, but did make 25,000 new appointments available at four of its mass vaccination sites Sunday afternoon. Anyone eligible under phases 1A, 1B, 1B+ and approved essential workers were able to sign up for the shot due to new state guidelines, however, those appointments were booked up in just under two hours.

"It was 50 thousand people in the waiting room with only 25,000 vaccines," said vaccine hunter Maria Koikas.

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Doctors have been warning about a potential fourth wave, saying it will look different compared to previous ones.

Koikas started helping others enroll when she saw how difficult the process was for her own parents.

"It is a million people going for the same hot concert ticket that there is only 100 of them," she said.

In the last month, Koikas has enrolled nearly 300 people and counting. Her advice is to check often, be prepared for the appointment drop, and don't give up.

"It is not easy," she added.

For those who were able to snag an appointment, the shots will be given at Triton College, South Suburban College, Des Plaines and Forest Park.

In addition, anyone previously classified as 1C in higher education, government, media, restaurants, construction trades, and religious leaders, will be eligible to schedule an appointment.

The eligibility and appointment expansion comes just as the city and state experience a significant uptick in the number of cases diagnosed. In Chicago alone, the daily case rate has gone up by a 50% increase over the last week.

"We are getting concerned that there is going to be another resurgence because we have other variants that are circulating around," said Dr. Zachary Rubins, with Oak Brook Allergists.

Dr. Rubin has been watching those numbers closely, hoping the state continues to expand eligibility.

"Things have been slow in certain parts of the state -- which is frustrating, however, as long as we increase the eligibility and the supply, we can meet these challenges," he said.

Austin pop-up vaccine event

There was a pop-up vaccine event at the Rising Sun Missionary Baptist Church in Austin Sunday.

Some 60 healthcare professionals of color spent most of the day giving nearly 1,200 people the one dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

"We're going to continue until every person receives the vaccination who wants it. We will leave nobody behind," said 7th District Congressman Danny Davis.

According to Chicago's COVID-19 vulnerability index, the Austin neighborhood on the city's west side is listed in the top 15 most vulnerable communities, making the effort even more important after some people were left in limbo after the Loretto Hospital had its supply of vaccine cut off following several controversial vaccinations by the medical center.

"What's really important for people to know is after you are fully immunized, you must continue to wear masks, wash your hands and physically distance in order to protect each other and the community," said Stephanie Cox-Batson with Near North Health Services.

COVID-19 survivor and long hauler, Phyllis Rodgers, still suffers from fatigue and depression. He and his 74-year-old sister, Willie Mae Johnson, got vaccinated Sunday.

"I do anticipate traveling, so get it done. I won't have anything to worry about," Johnson said.

"I got the vaccine. I wanted one and done," Rodgers added.

"It's all about that health equity and making sure the people have access to resources that they would not be normal otherwise have," said Nathaniel Powell, Rush University Medical Center community health worker.

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Some 60 healthcare professionals of color spent most of the day giving nearly 1,200 people the one dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

To date, two million Illinois residents, which is 16% of the state population, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state has been vaccinating over 99,000 people a day on average.

Gov. JB Pritzker said he may be forced to rethink his approach to fully reopening the state fully, which it was on pace to start next week.

Appointments can be made at or by calling 833-308-1988, Monday - Friday from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. The call center will be open Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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