In The News

Chicago administers first 5 doses of coronavirus vaccines

Five front-line medical workers received the vaccine against COVID-19 in Chicago on Tuesday morning, marking an important milestone in the fight against the coronavirus.

“What we just witnessed is history in the making,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a ceremony at Loretto Hospital in the city’s hard-hit Austin community.

The first person to receive the vaccine was Dr. Marina Del Rios, from the University of Illinois health system.

Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady led a small ceremony for five recipients during which she emphasized the vaccine’s safety, saying it went through the proper channels and scientific monitoring.

She also discussed the process used to store it. Officials gave five doses to start, because that’s how many are in a vial, she said.

After the first vaccination, the room applauded.

Del Rios said workers had been anxious for this day to come. Front-line medical workers have lost friends and family while worrying about their ability to keep patients safe in overcrowded hospitals under challenging conditions.

“We carry on, doing the best we can with the resources we have,” she said.

Mark Hooks, an emergency department nurse at Loretto, was the third person — and first Illinois man — to receive the vaccination.

In April, he told the Tribune the grueling decision to isolate himself from his two school-age daughters was the hardest part of his job. Though Hooks joined them for socially distant activities such as bike riding and street hockey, there were no meals shared, no watching movies together on the couch.

“There is a lot of Zoom and a lot of Houseparty, but it’s just not the same,” he said. “Even harder than being scared about coming to work every day is not being able to be with them.”

Although Lightfoot hailed the vaccine on Tuesday as “the beginning of the end,” she warned residents not to let their guard down. Residents must continue social distancing, staying at home and avoiding unnecessary travel, including canceling traditional holiday plans, Lightfoot said.

“While we can see light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in the tunnel,” she said.

After Thanksgiving, there was an increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate because not enough people followed the rules, Lightfoot said.

“COVID-19 is still real,” she said.

Lightfoot also 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.

“Black folks, my Latinx bothers and sisters, we are the ones who are most disproportionately suffering from this virus,” she said.

The mayor also said the city is working closely with community organizations as part of an effort to boost public trust.

Even as Lightfoot and Arwady praised the vaccine, they emphasized that it would be months before it’s widely available to residents and curbing COVID-19 will take time.

“We’re probably going to be at it for another year before this virus is in the rearview mirror,” Arwady said.