CHICAGO (CBS) — With two drug companies asking the FDA for emergency approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, Chicago’s top doctor said it could be available in the city later this month.

Doctor Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health said the first doses, which will mostly likely go to healthcare workers in the city, will be given very soon.

“I want you to know that we are ready to accept whatever amount of vaccine we receive. We have plans that will start with all 37 Chicago hospitals, receiving vaccine for healthcare workers, not yet for patients,” Arwady said. “And we have planned for all 128 long term care facilities in Chicago, that would include both skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.”

It’s estimated that the city will get anywhere from 20,000-25,000 doses.

The state of Illinois as a whole will get 109,000 doses in the first shipment mid-month if all approvals go as planned.

“We can’t be sure about any of this until the federal government makes that emergency use authorization, and then the recommendation for vaccine. So I think it is likely that we will be vaccinating here in Chicago, probably the third week of December, possibly the fourth week of December again depending how the federal timeline plays out,” Arwady said.

It was not clear late Tuesday whether Chicago’s hardest hit areas will be at the front of the line. Meanwhile, officials said not all health care workers will get the vaccine out of the gate, CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported.

“There will not be enough for everyone,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Candice Robinson. “If we are to get more doses, we have plans to be able to scale up rapidly for vaccination.”

Arwady said the guidelines for distribution will come from the federal government. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 to recommend health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities get the first access to vaccines.

Arwady said the campaign rollout for people to be vaccinated will probably take a year.

“We are anticipating that the way this will be prioritized not be by neighborhood per se, it will be by risk,” Arwady said. “We are starting with health care workers, probably next coming with essential workers. Next, you know, and people who are over 65 people with these underlying conditions. What we are anticipating at CDPH through protect Chicago is that we will do additional outreach efforts for example in neighborhoods that have been hardest hit to ensure that there is good knowledge about how to get vaccine as it is available to the population.”

The vaccines close to approval all require everyone to get a second shot at a later date. Dr. Arwady said that would come from future shipments.

The city health department does have the capacity to store the ultra-cold vaccine shipments if hospitals cannot.

The city and state are expecting rolling shipments in the weeks that follow to give all first recipients a second shot and widen the net of who is next.

In Chicago, after health care workers are covered, the next batches are expected to go to long-term care facilities, and then those with underlying conditions, those over 65, and other essential workers.

That order could shuffle as the federal government weighs in on priority. But Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the finish line feels close.

“We’re close, so we need us all to hang in there for the the final stretch,” Ezike said.

Gov. JB Pritzker said he expects the CDC will finalize its vaccine guidance for states in days, so that individual states can put the finishing touches on plans to distribute the first round of vaccines from Pfizer, likely in mid-December.

The governor also said the first round of vaccines will go almost entirely to frontline health-care workers, and then to staff and residents at nursing homes.

“Our anticipation at the moment is the numbers are small enough so that it won’t go beyond those two populations. It may not even get to all healthcare workers, at least not in that very first shipment that we receive,” Pritzker said.

Right now, Prtizker said the state is expecting an initial delivery of 109,000 doses of the first available vaccine from Pfizer; and since that vaccine is a two-dose treatment, that means the first round will allow the state to inoculate approximately 54,500 people.

Both Gov. Pritzker and Dr. Arwady were asked if Chicagoans or Illinoisans would be mandated to get the vaccine. They both said no.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s top doctor said despite a small dip in COVID cases in the city, most of the country, including Wisconsin and Indiana, are on the city’s travel order. The CDPH is using a color-coded map to show the places to completely avoid to the states that have low COVID case numbers in comparison. The three states are Maine, Vermont and Hawaii.

(Credit: City of Chicago)

Two weeks ago, the travel order included most of the United States and the city’s health director strongly recommended that people not travel for the Thanksgiving holiday and not have people outside your immediate household into your home for the celebration.

The order requires people to self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving from the states and Puerto Rico. There was no travel order issued by the city of Chicago last week because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The CDPH lists what people need to regarding travel:

  1. When planning, review the CDPH Travel Order state list. Avoid all non-essential travel.
  2. Prior to arrival, Orange list travelers must receive a negative COVID-19 test result no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival and have proof of negative results OR plan to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Red list travelers should plan for a 14-day quarantine.
  3. Upon arrival in Chicago, Orange list travelers should maintain a copy of negative test result with them while in Chicago or quarantine for 14 days if they chose not to take a test. Red list travelers should quarantine for 14 days.

In Chicago, from November 1 through December 1, 356 people died of COVID, which according to Arwady is five times the number recorded since the summer. The head of the CDPH said the numbers are still very high in the city.

“We estimate that there’s between 99,000 and 140,000 Chicagoans with active infectious COVID right now. And that means as many as one in 19 Chicagoans still has active COVID right now. If you’ve been following along, that’s a little better than last week where it was one in 17 Chicago into the prior week when it was one in 15 Chicagoans. But still, the risk for COVID here is high, and gathering remains unfortunately a high risk activity.”

On Tuesday, state public health officials reported 12,542 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, as well as 125 additional deaths.

It was the highest daily case total in Illinois in 12 days, although the Illinois Department of Public Health also reported the largest testing total in 11 days, so the state saw only a slight uptick in its positivity rate.

Illinois is averaging 9,251 new cases per day over the past week, down from an average of 10,891 daily cases the previous week, but more than four times higher than the 2,052 cases per day during the first seven days of October.

However, testing also is down significantly over the past week, likely due in part to the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Illinois averaged 89,111 tests per day over the past seven days, compared to 101,832 tests per day during the prior week.

CBS 2’s Chris Tye contributed to this report.
 

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