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1 in 8 local seniors vaccinated, but a third of city shots still going to non-Chicagoans, Arwady says

“We are pleased to vaccinate people who live in Chicago, who work in Chicago, who get medical care in Chicago,” Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said Thursday. But “we don’t want people broadly driving long distances who don’t have connections to Chicago.”

Melvin Glick, a retired physician, gets vaccinated at Cook County’s second mass vaccination site at Triton College at 2000 5th Ave in River Grove, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

One in eight Chicagoans over 65 have gotten their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and one in 17 Chicagoans overall have already received a shot, a city official said Thursday.

In a live Thursday Q&A session, Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city only receives 5,700 doses daily of the vaccine to be used across the entire Chicago population, a number that amounts to less than 5% of what is needed to vaccinate the eligible populations — including health care and essential workers and seniors — in Phase 1A and 1B.

Despite the scarcity, Arwady said about 36% of the city’s vaccinations are being given to non-Chicago residents.

“We are pleased to vaccinate people who live in Chicago, who work in Chicago, who get medical care in Chicago,” Arwady said. But “we don’t want people broadly driving long distances who don’t have connections to Chicago.”

Some Latino leaders on Wednesday criticized pharmacies in city neighborhoods for giving vaccines to people from the suburbs. Walgreens said while it was working with the city to target vulnerable communities, it does not check residency for those who are eligible to get the shots.

As part of the Protect Chicago Plus initiative, which the city rolled out Jan. 25, Arwady said a main goal is to vaccinate communities within the 15 neighborhoods highest on Chicago’s COVID-19 vulnerability index, including Lawndale, Englewood and Austin.

Arwady said the Chicago Department of Public Health is partnering with community leaders and residents to talk with high-priority vaccination candidates in these neighborhoods and help them set up appointments to be vaccinated.

Once the appointment is set up, residents have access to vaccines set aside by the city specifically for the program.

“We have a closed point of dispensing, a dedicated clinic for people who live in Little Village or in any of these settings,” Arwady said. “That [is] not open to the general public [and is] made for people who are from that community, who we most want to get vaccinated.”

At this point, Arwady said she is pleased with the data on citywide vaccinations and the lower rates of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations.

“The vaccine is getting where we need it to get,” Arwady said. “Good improvements in communities of concern, age of concern, and in our highest risk, congregate settings.

“We’re doing a good job of pushing the vaccine into the settings where it’s going to make the biggest difference.”