Chicago will have six mass COVID-19 vaccinations sites up and running by next week, increasing the city’s capacity to give shots by up to 25,000 shots per week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.
But the mayor again said the city isn’t receiving enough vaccines from the federal government, noting that it would take a year and a half to vaccinate the entire city at the current pace of distribution.
“That is completely and totally unacceptable,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot also noted the city’s receiving fewer doses now than when the vaccines first became available, calling it “clearly the opposite direction of where we need to be going.”
As of this week, Chicago has received 229,950 vaccine shipments, including the first and second doses. The city received 32,775 first shots this week and last, compared with the 63,375 doses the city received in the second week of vaccinations.
Next week, that shipment will slightly bump up to 34,550 first doses, Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said, but she added in a virtual question-and-answer session later Thursday that she wants to see that number rise to between 70,000 and 140,000.
“We are making good progress, but I do want to underscore … the main thing we need to grow our operation and be able to move ahead through these phases is additional vaccine,” Arwady said.
President-elect Joe Biden promised last week he will immediately ship available doses to states, a move that was followed by President Donald Trump’s administration. Previously, the federal government had held on to a stockpile of vaccine reserved for the second shot.
Chicago vaccination sites have put 94,365 doses as of Wednesday, including nonresidents who work in the city. But 2.3% of the overall population of Chicago residents have gotten the first dose so far.
For phase 1a, there are about 400,000 health care workers and 58,900 residents and staff in long-term care facilities in Chicago. But it is unclear how many are city residents versus nonresidents. Phase 1b’s population is even more formidable, with Arwady estimating 360,000 Chicagoans who are over the age of 65 and the same amount who work front-line essential jobs in the city.
Still, the city will have mass vaccination sites at Malcolm X College, Arturo Velasquez Institute, Richard J. Daley College, Olive-Harvey College, Kennedy-King College and Harry S. Truman College by the end of next week, Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot’s announcement about mass distribution sites came as the city and state move toward the next phase of vaccines, which will allow a broader group of people to be vaccinated. The city is currently focused on vaccinating front-line health care workers in the first phase of the vaccine distribution.
Phase 1a has been focused on health care personnel and long-term care facilities’ residents. Phase 1b will expand to allow seniors over 65 and certain non-health care front-line essential workers, including teachers, to be vaccinated. That stage will also be by appointment only, Arwady said, and priority will be given based on age and risk. The front-line essential workers will likely go in February after the most at-risk seniors and sign up through their employers.
The mass vaccination sites are only open to outpatient health care workers for now, but Arwady said eventually seniors over 65 may go there, too, and register through the city’s website. She stressed that when the time comes, they should first try signing up through their health care providers or pharmacies, however.
Lightfoot also said she wants to reopen city bars and restaurants as soon as possible and will talk with Gov. J.B. Pritzker about the issue. The mayor initially criticized Pritzker in October when he announced that he would be closing indoor service at bars and restaurants due to a spike in coronavirus cases but later dropped her objection.
In recent months, Lightfoot has attempted to position herself as a friend to bars and restaurants though she has also faced criticism for the city’s anticoronavirus measures, including stricter rules on liquor sales that she’s since rescinded.
City officials hailed the coronavirus vaccine’s arrival last month as “the beginning of the end,” but Lightfoot also has warned residents not to let their guard down. Residents must continue social distancing, staying at home and avoiding unnecessary travel, officials have emphasized.
Lightfoot also has repeatedly noted the challenges of providing vaccines, saying there’s a “trust deficit” among Black and Latino residents, but noted it’s important for those communities to get the shot.
To boost vaccine rates among Black and Latino residents, Lightfoot officials have held ceremonial events at hospitals serving those communities. The Loretto Hospital, a 122-bed medical facility in the Austin community, was chosen to administer Chicago’s ceremonial first COVID-19 vaccination because of the care it has provided to communities hit hardest by the virus. Austin’s main ZIP code has among the highest death rates in the city.
Underscoring the city’s efforts to boost vaccination rates in diverse communities, Ald. Derrick Curtis, 18th, urged Black and Latino residents to get shots despite their skepticism. He said the vaccine has proven “to be safe for all ages, races, small or huge body frames.”
“The sooner we take this vaccine, the sooner we get back to a normal lifestyle,” Curtis said. “The sooner we get back to block parties. The sooner we get back to our family functions.”
According to Adamsson, the Pfizer vaccine with its ultra-cold requirements will only make up about 10% of the global vaccine supply, and most of that supply has already been bought up by wealthy countries with the infrastructure to support the cold chain. Moderna's vaccine, already approved by the US and other nations, only requires temperatures of -20 degrees. Since that temperature can be sustained without the use of dry ice, air transport of the Moderna vaccine will only be limited by cargo capacity
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Having capacity, network, and infrastructure are critical, but even more critical may be coordination between vaccine manufacturers, storage equipment providers, freight forwarders, and operators. The greatest challenge, according to Adamsson, is timing. "Once a vaccine is approved by any country, of course, they would like to get it shipped as soon as possible, preferably yesterday," he explained, "No one can really predict when the approvals will come, so we all need to be very on our toes and be well prepared in order to serve the global community." Prior to the announcements of test results for vaccine trials in early December, the industry had prepared as well as it could. But as results came out and approvals were issued, there was a scramble as demand for vaccine transport increased almost overnight.
The sudden spike in demand also meant that the transportation process had to become very efficient. With a limited number of containers to carry vaccines requiring cold storage, logistics planning had to include delivering the empty containers back to the country where the vaccine is manufactured, so the cycle could be repeated.
The high value, and in some circles, controversial nature of Covid-19 vaccines means that security must also be considered. With the vast geographic distribution network that will be required, the International Air Transport Association cautioned that planning is essential to ensure integrity of vaccines throughout the entire transportation process, from loading and departure to off-loading and storage.
Although the scale of the Covid-19 vaccine airlift is vast, experts point out that airlines have been transporting high value, cold chain pharmaceuticals for years. According to Daniel Williams, fleet and flight analyst for Aviation Week, "it's business as usual, but at a new level of volume".
The air cargo industry is increasingly optimistic about its ability to meet the challenges ahead. A survey conducted in mid-December by the International Air Cargo Association found that 46% of air cargo industry stakeholders felt well prepared for the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines, compared to 28% in October. For Adamsson, the vaccine airlift is a chance for the public to see how important air cargo is to our society. "When I wake up every morning," he said, "I know that I am on a mission, I have a vital role to play."
After conferring with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Vice President Mike Pence and President-elect Joe Biden's team, and reviewing revised CDC guidance, the governor announced the immediate activation of Phase 1B of the state's COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.
Starting Monday, eligible groups will be expanded statewide to include all Marylanders 75 and older, as well as anyone of any age living in assisted living or independent living facilities and developmental disabilities and behavioral health group homes.
"Vaccines will now be available to all of Maryland's vulnerable population," Maryland Aging Se
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