CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago marked another new milestone in the fight against COVID-19 on Tuesday, as the five healthcare workers who were the first in the city to be vaccinated received their second doses of the coronavirus vaccine. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the federal government needs to significantly speed up distribution of vaccines, calling the current pace of deliveries “unacceptable.”
Lightfoot said, to date, Chicago has distributed 95% of the vaccines it has received, “but the challenge is this: we do not have enough vaccine.”
The mayor said there needs to be an exponential increase in the amount of vaccine available throughout the country. She said, at the current pace of vaccine deliveries by the federal government, it will take almost a year and a half to vaccinate all of Chicago.
“That is way too long, and frankly unacceptable,” she said.
Lightfoot said the Trump administration had previously estimated it 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine would be administered by the end of 2020, but “the federal government came nowhere close to meeting that mark.”
Arwady said, as of Tuesday, approximately 4.5 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine nationwide.
Tuesday morning, the city held a ceremony at Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park to administer the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to the same five healthcare workers who were the first in the city to get the first dose of the vaccine three weeks ago.
Lightfoot made the comments during a ceremony at Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park where a small group of health care workers who previously received the city’s first doses of Pfizer vaccine received a second. The Pfizer vaccine, one of two approved by the federal government for use, requires two shots three weeks apart to work best.
“This is the best way to start the new year,” said Dr. Marina Del Rios, from University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, who was the first person in Chicago to be inoculated three weeks ago at Loretto Hospital in the Austin neighborhood.
She joined four other healthcare workers on Tuesday at Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park to get the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The four others included:
- Barbara Shields Johnson-Critical Care RN, Director of Med/Surg/ICU, Loretto Hospital
- Mark Hooks, ER RN, Loretto Hospital
- Jermilla Hill-Patient Care Technician, Loretto Hospital
- Elizabeth Zimnie, ER RN, Norwegian American Hospital
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said both the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are two-dose inoculations, so it’s important for those who receive either vaccine to get both doses of the same vaccine.
Arwady said researchers estimate after receiving the first dose, people are 52% protected against COVID-19; after the second dose, they are 95% protected.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said officials chose Loretto and Norwegian hospitals to hold televised vaccinations because the virus has hit particularly hard in Black and Latino communities like Austin and Humboldt Park.
“As we are all aware, COVID-19 has left a disproportionate and devastating impact on Black and Brown Chicago, many of whom are dealing with pre-existing conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to healthcare impacts like COVID-19,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor also said public health officials want to ensure minority communities that the vaccine is safe, noting a higher level of distrust in Black and Brown neighborhoods, given the nation’s history of inhumane medical experiments, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.
“The fact of the matter is that many of our Black and Latinx residents have a very understandable skepticism about the safety of receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Skepticism is rooted in long and terrible legacy of racism and abuse in the medical community. That’s why in the coming days and weeks we will continue to work with community-based leaders and stakeholders to build back this trust,” Lightfoot said.
Arwady said, there have been only a “very small number” of allergic reactions to the vaccine so far, and medical staff are prepared to treat any such reactions. She also dispelled the myth that the vaccine could actually give some people COVID-19, noting none of the vaccines contain live inactivated virus.
“It is absolutely impossible for a COVID-19 vaccine to give you COVID-19,” she said.
Chicago is expecting 16,575 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 16,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, according to Arwady. She said that’s “not enough” to reach outpatient healthcare workers.
Arwady said all inpatient hospital staff should have received a first dose of the vaccine by now, but uptake has not been as high as public health officials would like, particularly among Black and Latino workers.
So far, officials are still in the first phase of the vaccination plan, with vaccines available only to frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff.
“We are not anywhere close to done with that phase,” Arwady said.
Arwady said she doesn’t expect to move to the next phase of the distribution plan until next month at the earliest. The next phase would make the vaccine available to people age 75 and older; as well as essential non-healthcare workers such as police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, teachers, child care workers, grocery store workers, food and agricultural workers, public transit workers, and manufacturing workers.
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