CHICAGO (CBS) — As the city continues to ramp up efforts to protect healthcare workers, several more mass vaccination sites are opening up at City Colleges campuses, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the federal government needs to speed up its delivery of doses to Chicago.
The city’s first mass vaccination site opened last month at Malcolm X College. This week, the city opened two more mass vaccination locations, also known as Points of Dispensing (PODs), at Arturo Velasquez Institute and Richard J. Daley College earlier this week. A POD at Olive-Harvey College will open on Friday, and two more will open at Kennedy-King College and Harry S. Truman College next week.
The sites are being set up for outpatient healthcare workers who aren’t employed at hospitals where they can get the vaccine directly through their jobs — such as dental workers, school nurses, and community-based clinic healthcare staff. The sites are open by appointment only, and healthcare workers must first make sure their employer is registered with the city.
So far, the city has administered approximately 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, with approximately 16,000 people having received two doses.
Also, beginning on Monday, in order to avoid having any existing doses of the vaccine from going to waste, hospitals and other enrolled vaccine providers will be allowed to begin inoculating at-risk patients who are 65 or older, if there are any doses that would otherwise go unused. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said those patients must already have been admitted to the facility, and healthcare workers should give priority to those who are the oldest or have the most underlying conditions that put them at higher risk from COVID-19.
There are approximately 400,000 healthcare workers in Chicago who are eligible to be inoculated during the first phase of the vaccine distribution plan, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the federal government has not lived up to its promises on delivering doses across the country.
The mayor said vaccine distribution to Chicago has actually dropped over the past few weeks. Two weeks ago, the city got approximately 38,000 doses, and last week it received 32,000.
“That is clearly the opposite direction of where we need to be going,” she said.
Lightfoot said, at the current pace of vaccine delivery, it will take a year and a half to inoculate everyone in Chicago.
“That is completely and totally unacceptable,” she said.
Arwady said in the next phase of vaccine distribution — which will focus on people 65 and older; and workers in essential industries like emergency services, education, grocery stores, and more — more than 600,000 people will be eligible for the vaccine. She said the current rate of vaccine delivery isn’t good enough to quickly get through Phase 1B.
However, Lightfoot and Arwady said they’re encouraged that the Trump administration has talked about releasing second doses of vaccine that have been held back, and the incoming Biden administration has discussed invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up the national vaccine supply.
“My only wish is that we’d have enough doses to vaccinate everyone right now, and finally move forward out of this terrible pandemic, and to get our lives and our world back o track, but we will get there,” Lightfoot said.
Vaccinations during Phase 1B will be available by appointment only. Although the city has not yet announced when it will begin that phase, Arwady said people will be able to sign up at chicago.gov/covidvax when Phase 1B begins.
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