Chicago administered the first doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine
to five health care workers on Tuesday in what city officials touted as
an "historic" moment at Loretto Hospital on the city's West Side.
Dubbing the day "Vaccine Day" in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot
said "we have finally and at long last officially taken our first
steps in our long road toward COVID vaccination."
Chicago's top doctor called it "the beginning of what will be
the end of COVID-19 in Chicago."
"There is nothing I wanted more for Christmas than a vaccine that
looked like this," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner
Dr. Allison Arwady said after witnessing the first vaccinations.
She then highlighted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's evaluation
process for the first vaccine from Pfizer, approved for emergency use
last week, and noted that she felt "very confident in knowing that
no steps for the safety process for approving a vaccine have been skipped."
City officials thanked both the workers who received the vaccine and those
who administered it.
"They are forever now part of history in the city of Chicago and I
think they recognize how important it is for them and for our city,"
Lightfoot praised the first vaccinations but noted Tuesday that "widespread
community distribution of the vaccine is still months away."
"While we can see light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in
the tunnel," Lightfoot said, noting she was quoting an unnamed doctor.
"We still have places in our city where this terrible virus is ravaging
the body, mind and spirit of so many. We will be here unfortunately for
months to come."
Hospitals in Chicago and across Illinois have been preparing to receive
and administer the first doses to health care workers on the front lines
of the pandemic after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency
use of Pfizer's vaccine last week.
The first shipment of Pfizer's vaccine arrived in Illinois on Monday,
with thousands of doses now being processed to go to hospitals across
the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
Also Tuesday, the first doses to be administered outside of Chicago were
given in Peoria, with Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health
Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike witnessing.
"This is a beginning for the state of Illinois," Pritzker said
at the event.
Pritzker's office said the first shipment, delivered to the Illinois
Strategic National Stockpile, contained approximately 43,000 doses of
Illinois officials said Chicago received a shipment from the federal government
on Monday as well, one of five local health departments to receive direct
shipments independent of the state.
The four others include: Cook County Department of Public Health, Lake
County Health Department and Community Health Center, Madison County Health
Department, and St. Clair County Health Department.
Arwady said the city expected to receive 23,400 doses of the vaccine this
week and anticipated additional doses to be arriving over the next few
days and continuing in the coming weeks. She also noted that the FDA was
slated to review Moderna's vaccine in a few days, saying that she
hoped approval of the second vaccine was less than a week away.
When it comes to who will get the vaccine first, Chicago and Illinois health
officials have long said they would follow federal public health guidelines
to first vaccinate health care workers on the frontlines of fighting the
pandemic. The city has said there are roughly 400,000 health care workers
in the city, including doctors, nurses and other hospital staff.
"We will shortly, just within the next couple of weeks, be expanding
to long-term care facilities, both staff and residents there," Arwady
said. "Then we're expecting by approximately the end of year
late December, early January to start also moving into the space of outpatient
health care providers."
After frontline health care workers and residents and staff of long-term
care facilities, the city says priority will be given to workers in essential
and critical industries including emergency services personnel, people
at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions
and people ages 65 and older.
"We've already been at this for nearly a year and I think we're
going to be at it for probably another year by the time we really get
to the point where this is in the rearview mirror," Arwady said.
"But it is within our power to keep this virus in control. You know
the things that work - please continue to do them."