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Shave and a shot? City health officials ponder ‘creative ways’ to ‘make vaccine something that people are excited about getting’

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday said the city is looking at ways to boost vaccination, including partnering with barbershops and nail salons to give out free cuts along with shots. 

A young man sits in the barber chair for a haircut at C’Styles Barber Shop in Markham last year.
A young man sits in the barber chair for a haircut at C’Styles Barber Shop in Markham last year.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times file

Chicagoans could soon get a shot in the arm when they go in to take a little off the top.

Some might opt for a jab during the spin cycle at the laundromat.

Others could figure they might as well get their dose while watching the clock tick away in line at the DMV.

Those are some of the “creative ways” public health officials will try to get COVID-19 shots into arms as vaccine supply ramps up — and demand eases down, the city’s top doctor said Tuesday.

Since Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign began, the city has met ambitious weekly goals to distribute 95% or more of the doses it receives from the federal government, but that’ll likely change after this week, according to Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

“It’s a good issue where we now have enough supply, but the question is, will we have the demand to really keep up with the supply?” Arwady said.

“We’re really thinking, particularly for younger people, about how we can make vaccine something that people are excited about getting,” she said.

The city announced a milestone of 2 million shots given as of Tuesday, but after four months of residents clamoring for limited numbers of appointments, only about 42% of Chicagoans have gotten at least one dose, and just 29% are fully vaccinated.

In an effort to boost vaccine uptake, the city announced it’ll allocate a total of $9.6 million in federal funding to community groups across the city to help push the vaccine, especially in neighborhoods of color that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, pictured at a January news conference.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, pictured at a January news conference.
Ashlee Rezin García/Sun-Times file

But the city is also thinking outside the box to boost vaccination, including by partnering with barbershops and nail salons to give out free cuts along with shots. Arwady said they’re also targeting other places people are waiting around for a set amount of time, like the state’s drivers’ license facilities or local laundromats.

“There are a lot of Chicagoans who — it’s not that they’ve said, ‘I don’t want to get a vaccine.’ It’s just maybe not first on their list of things to do,” she said. “So thinking of creative ways to get the vaccine available where people are anyway is really going to be central to some of our strategy.”

Vaccine demand has slowed across the rest of the state, too. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 81,152 more shots were given Monday, the third straight day the state has logged fewer than 100,000 vaccinations — the first such streak the state has seen in a month.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

The state is now averaging 105,757 shots per day over the last week, a rate that has steadily fallen since hitting an all-time high of nearly 133,000 on April 12. Just over 30% of Illinois residents are now fully vaccinated, while 53% have gotten at least one shot.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state was looking to partner with community groups statewide to host vaccination clinics “as we shift into the next phase of vaccinations – where we have enough supply but need to overcome hesitancy and structural barriers.”

As for COVID-19 infections, “we’re heading in the right direction,” Arwady said.

The state reported 2,556 new cases were diagnosed among 62,724 tests to keep the average statewide positivity rate at 3.5%, as low as it’s been since the beginning of the month.

The virus also claimed 23 more lives, including that of a Will County woman in her 30s.

Since the pandemic began, more than 1.3 million Illinoisans have tested positive for COVID-19, and 21,858 of them have died.

For help finding an appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.