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Chicago bringing COVID-19 vaccines straight to older residents’ doors to boost uptake: ‘It’s a concierge service’

“If you’re over 65, no questions asked: we will bring vaccine to your house at a time that’s convenient for you, and vaccinate anybody else, really, in your family or at home,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Dr. Allison Arwady knocks on a door of a home in March in the Back of the Yards neighborhood to give the resident a mask and information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Allison Arwady knocks on a door of a home in March in the Back of the Yards neighborhood to give the resident a mask and information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. City vaccine providers will now bring vaccines directly to the homes of residents 65 or older, no questions asked.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

City officials say they need more seniors to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and they’ll bring it to folks’ doorsteps to make it happen.

Chicago has managed to keep pace with most state and national vaccination rates except when it comes to residents 65 or older. Only about 69% of Chicagoans in that category have gotten a shot, compared to 82% in that age group statewide and 85% across the U.S.

That’s why the Chicago Department of Public Health expanded its in-home vaccination program this week to offer dose-to-door delivery to anyone 65 or older, plus their caretakers and family members.

“We’ll problem solve and figure out how to get a vaccine to that person, no matter what their issue is, no matter what kind of vaccine they want, no matter where they live,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during an online Q&A Thursday. “It’s a concierge service. … So if you’re over 65, no questions asked: We will bring vaccine to your house at a time that’s convenient for you, and vaccinate anybody else, really, in your family or at home.”

The expansion builds on a vaccination program that has already brought shots directly to 2,600 residents with mobility issues due to medical conditions or disabilities since March.

Offering it more widely to seniors will help prevent more of the serious coronavirus cases that have already claimed 22,536 lives across Illinois, including 5,429 in Chicago, Arwady said.

“The reason why I care so much about getting older people especially vaccinated is they’re by far the most likely to end up in the hospital on a ventilator, or to die. … We do see people, and especially people who aren’t vaccinated, following that whole progression,” she said.

In-home appointments can be made by calling (312) 746-4835.

It’s a far cry from the early, free-for-all days of the vaccination effort barely two months ago, when thousands of people still found themselves vying for tiny batches of coveted appointments. With infection rates approaching all-time lows, public health officials have entered the more difficult phase of immunization that’s keyed on making the life-saving doses as accessible as possible — and persuading the unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves.

That includes canvassing neighborhoods where vaccination rates are barely a third of those in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods — and where infection rates have correspondingly ticked up. City workers will be knocking on doors in Auburn Gresham, West Englewood, South Austin and other South and West Side neighborhoods this weekend providing educational materials to residents.

“This is sort of like a ‘get-out-the-vote’ or some of our Census work,” Arwady said.

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.

Statewide, 64% of adults have gotten at least one shot and nearly 39% of the overall population are fully vaccinated.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 89,832 more shots went into arms Wednesday, well above the state’s seven-day average of 65,998 shots doled out per day.

Another 1,542 COVID-19 cases were diagnosed among 79,529 tests, lowering the average statewide positivity rate to 2.2%. That suggests the virus is spreading at nearly its slowest pace since it first hit Illinois; the positivity rate sank to an all-time low of 2.1% in mid-March.

But it also claimed 42 more lives, including 13 Cook County residents 60 or older.

For more help finding a vaccine 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.