Dec. 15 update: At Loretto Hospital this morning, the first COVID-19 vaccines were given to five front-line health care workers. The historic and highly anticipated event came just days after federal regulators authorized Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.
And Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike were on hand for initial COVID vaccinations to five people at OSF St. Francis in Peoria.
More vaccines will be on the way, Ezike said. "Patience will be the name of the game, but we will get this out," she said. "This will be an extended process, even though this is the last mile."
Governor Pritzker and Dr. Ezike witness the first COVID-19 vaccination in Illinois. https://t.co/buUh3qxtHl— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) December 15, 2020
COVID vaccinations start in Illinois. The first vaccine is administered to Chemica Jones a CNA with OSF HeathCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. Caryn Eisert will have the story this evening on WAND News. pic.twitter.com/b9DgsNuspe— Doug Wolfe - WAND TV (@WANDTVDoug) December 15, 2020
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady are at Loretto Hospital in Austin to celebrate the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Chicago. Here are the first five people to be vaccinated in Chicago:— Heather Cherone (@HeatherCherone) December 15, 2020
Earlier: About 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine are arriving in suburban Cook County this week. The doses are being divvied up among 15 hospitals, many of which expect to start inoculating workers Dec. 16, Cook County health officials said today.
And tomorrow in Chicago, Loretto Hospital is expected to dole out the first doses of the vaccine, a source affiliated with the West Side safety-net facility told Crain’s.
Five front-line health care workers—two physicians, two registered nurses and one respiratory therapist—are expected to be the first to get the highly anticipated shots, the source said.
Loretto treats large numbers of Black and Brown patients in Austin, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic. In addition to offering COVID tests, the hospital is in the midst of enrolling patients in clinical trials to study new COVID vaccine candidates, with the goal of ensuring minorities are represented. People of color historically have been underrepresented in such studies.
Without unlimited cold storage, local hospitals will need to administer the Pfizer vaccines they get within five days, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health. The department will store the additional initial doses, and future shipments are expected to be sent directly to the hospitals as needed.
Israel Rocha, CEO of two-hospital Cook County Health, said the public system expects to start vaccinating a small number of workers Dec. 16. About 1,000 employees who “perform aerosolizing generating procedures,” as well as those who have “high contact with COVID-19 staff,” will be included in the first phase of the rollout, he said. The phase is expected to be complete by Dec. 24.
While CCH workers are not required to get vaccinated, the majority of employees who have responded to a survey indicated that they intend to get the shots, Rocha said.
After getting the vaccines, individuals will be observed for at least 15 minutes to manage any potential allergic reactions and thereafter for any side effects, said Dr. Kiran Joshi, who co-leads the Cook County Department of Public Health. Those who experience adverse reactions will be entitled to a “COVID day” off.
Health care workers who get their first shots this week will return for their second doses in a few weeks and are expected to be fully protected from the virus a couple weeks after that.
While the vaccines are intended to prevent people from getting sick, it's not known whether individuals who get vaccinated can still carry and transmit the virus.
The vaccine was allocated to local hospitals based on the number of essential personnel and the impact of COVID-19 on the facilities, Joshi said.
Long-term care facility residents and staff are expected to get access to vaccines within the next two weeks, he added, followed by unaffiliated health care workers (such as those working in emergency medical services) and essential workers, including first responders and people who work for public utilities. Next up would be high-risk adults.
Meanwhile, the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines arrived today at the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a press briefing today that the state got nearly half of the 109,000 total doses it’s expecting in the first phase of the rollout, and additional shipments are expected in the coming weeks.
The federal government shipped doses directly to the city of Chicago and four large public health departments in Illinois: Cook, Lake, Madison and St. Clair counties, Pritzker said.
“Today marks a momentous occasion—not just this year, but in American history,” Pritzker said in a statement. "Eleven months after scientists the world over first got their hands on the genetic sequence of this virus—and we are seeing the beginning of the end of this pandemic.”
Pritzker said that after Moderna's vaccine is authorized, there should be enough doses to supply all the skilled-nursing facilities that have signed up to get vaccines.
Hospitals are expected to stagger vaccine administration by unit in case large numbers of workers experience side effects that require them to stay home for a day or two, Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during today’s press briefing.