6 p.m. Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccine supply finally catching up to demand, top doc says: ‘No excuses’ not to get a shot
The vaccine “Hunger Games” are over.
After four months of frustration for thousands of residents who scrambled to claim fleeting batches of COVID-19 vaccination appointments, Chicago finally has enough doses to provide a shot to anyone who wants one, the city’s top doctor said Thursday.
Thanks to a “softening” of vaccine demand in other parts of Illinois and growth in supply provided by the federal government, “you can get one today, no excuses,” according to Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
“We’ve been saying for months that these vaccines are safe, they are effective and now we can say they truly are available for all,” Arwady said during an online Q&A. “Our supply has just not been up to our demand month after month after month, and I know how frustrating that has been for many people, but as of now, we have enough vaccine.”
For the first time ever, the city has been able to provide doses to all vaccine providers who have requested them over the past two weeks, according to Arwady. As a result, city-run vaccination sites will start accepting limited numbers of walk-in appointments starting Friday.
“The fact that we actually have enough vaccine cannot be overstated in terms of how good of news that is for Chicago,” she said. “I want you to tell everybody that so that we can really, really, really use this vaccine, get folks vaccinated and get Chicago past COVID.”
1:39 p.m. DePaul, Columbia to require students returning for fall semester to be vaccinated
DePaul University and Columbia College will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus this fall, the schools announced this week.
Both schools plan to offer vaccines on campus this month.
“Safety, mutual care and social responsibility” are behind the decision, according A. Gabriel Esteban, president of DePaul, the nation’s largest Catholic university.
“While the pandemic has kept many of us apart in the last year, I am greatly anticipating your return to campus in the fall,” Esteban wrote in a letter to students. “Keeping our community safe requires a collective effort.”
Both schools will grant religious or medical-based exemptions to the rule.
1:11 p.m. COVID-19 hospitalizations tumble among US senior citizens
COVID-19 hospitalizations among older Americans have plunged 80% since the start of the year, dramatic proof the vaccination campaign is working. Now the trick is to get more of the nation’s younger people to roll up their sleeves.
The drop-off in severe cases among people 65 and older is so dramatic that the hospitalization rate among this highly vaccinated group is now down to around the level of the next-youngest category, Americans 50 to 64.
That slide is especially encouraging because senior citizens have accounted for about 8 out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 since the virus hit the United States.
Overall, COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have plummeted to about 700 per day on average, compared with a peak of over 3,400 in mid-January. All told, the scourge has killed about 570,000 Americans.
“What you’re seeing there is exactly what we hoped and wanted to see: As really high rates of vaccinations happen, hospitalizations and death rates come down,” said Jodie Guest, a public health researcher at Emory University.
12:06 p.m. US jobless claims fall to 547,000, another pandemic low
The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell last week to 547,000, the lowest point since the pandemic struck and an encouraging sign that layoffs are slowing on the strength of an improving job market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications declined 39,000 from a revised 586,000 a week earlier. Weekly jobless claims are down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January. At the same time, they’re still far above the roughly 230,000 level that prevailed before the viral outbreak ripped through the economy in March of last year.
“With 135 million Americans having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination and the economy opening up more each day, the number of job opportunities will continue to rise,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, a European bank.
About 17.4 million people were continuing to collect unemployment benefits in the week that ended April 3, up from 16.9 million in the previous week. Most of the increase occurred in two states, California and Texas, which process their claims every other week. In California, recipients of a federal program for the long-term unemployed jumped nearly 50%, a sign that the state likely processed a backlog of claims that had been filed earlier.
10:04 a.m. FDA inspection found problems at factory making J&J vaccine
The Baltimore factory hired to help make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of material going into a batch of shots, U.S. regulators said Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration released a statement and a 13-page report detailing findings from its just-completed inspection of the idled Emergent BioSciences factory.
Agency inspectors said a batch of bulk drug substance for J&J’s single-shot vaccine was contaminated with material used to make COVID-19 vaccines for another Emergent client, AstraZeneca. The batch, reportedly enough to make about 15 million J&J vaccine doses, had to be thrown out.
Other problems cited in the inspection report included peeling paint, black and brown residue on factory floors and walls, inadequate cleaning and employees not following procedures to prevent contamination between vaccine batches and ingredients.
Nothing made at the factory for J&J has been distributed, the FDA noted. The nearly 8 million doses of J&J vaccine given in the U.S. came from Europe.
Both Emergent and Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that they are working to fix the problems as quickly as possible.
New cases and vaccination rates
- Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,765 new cases of the coronavirus diagnosed among 81,133 tests to keep the average statewide positivity rate at 3.8%. After doubling over the course of a month, that key metric has now fallen or held steady for nine straight days.
- Illinois hospitals reported a slight decrease in COVID-19 patients, down to 2,191 as of Tuesday night.
- But the virus also killed 28 more residents, including a Kankakee County man in his 30s.
- More than 1.3 million Illinoisans have contracted COVID-19 over the last year, and 21,722 have died.
- More than 8.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered overall over the past four months, with 3.5 million residents now fully vaccinated — almost 28% of the population.