By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — With recent news from companies developing a COVID-19 vaccine, the head of Chicago’s public health department said it’s possible for it to come to Chicago by the end of the year.

Dr. Allison Arwady of the CDPH said the promising information coming from current trials has her thinking that a COVID vaccine could be given in Chicago sooner than previous expected.

“I think it is likely that we may see the first emergency use authorization FDA approval for a COVID vaccine in the next few weeks. And if that happens, I think it’s likely, we could have our first COVID-19 vaccine here in Chicago, before the end of the year,” Arwady said. “We don’t know that for a fact. We will only know that when the vaccine trials are appropriately completed. When the FDA has completed its review, and then the CDC also looks at the data and there’s an external group of scientists that make recommendations about who should receive this vaccine.”

At the front of the line to get a vaccine will be healthcare workers and most likely first responders.

“We are planning here in Chicago. We’ve been ready and we are ready to start COVID-19 vaccine administration, when the trials are done. And when we’re sure that the safety and efficacy data looks good. However, the initial supply will be limited,” Arwady said. “There’s been a decision to distribute this vaccine across the United States. And so we’ll be receiving tens of thousands of doses likely.”

She said for the general public, vaccine availability is still months away.

“There are many vaccines that are in trials, meaning, they’ve been developed in the laboratory. They’re checked first on animals, and then they move through a series of successively larger trials in humans to make sure first they’re safe,” Arwady said.

 

Despite being very positive about the vaccine news, she stressed that the rollout for the city of Chicago won’t happen for awhile.

“It is going to be months before we have the amount of vaccine where we start being able to, you know, talk about vaccinating hundreds of thousands or 2.7 million Chicagoans and having that available,” Arwady said. “This will continue sort of in waves as it’s available and throughout most of 2021, even as the vaccine is being rolled out, we are going to need people to keep wearing their masks to keep social distancing, even the people who have received the vaccine, because it’s going to be hard to know who’s gotten this, and we’re still learning, and we’ll be learning that even if this vaccine is protective.”

She said her department has been in the planning stages for distributing and administering a COVID vaccine once it becomes available.

“We have more than 150,000 health care workers in Chicago. And so being able to start from a place of getting specific, I think one of the most challenging things when it comes to really vaccine administration is taking this down from the very high level to not millions and not thousands, but really thinking about the number of doses that come in a package. How do we divide that up? How do we send that out,” Arwady said.

Despite the news of a vaccine on its way, Arwady cautioned people not to let that get in the way of wearing a mask. She said there are still many unknown variables before masks can be put away.

“Even as the vaccine is being rolled out, we are going to need people to keep wearing their masks to keep social distancing. Even the people who have received the vaccine, it’s going to be hard to know who’s gotten this who has this. We want to have a general sense, and we’re still learning. And we’ll be learning that even if this vaccine is protective to me, we still are learning are vaccinated people completely unable to shut it to others,” Ardwady said.

For example…

“How long does this last? There’s still going to be a lot of questions. It’s fantastic news. The fact that we’ve got a vaccine that looks like it could be more than 90% effective is huge. But a vaccine is not going to be here for most people in the next few months. And even once it starts to be here for some time, we’re going to need to continue these actions.”

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