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COVID Vaccine Phase 1B Begins For Chicago Residents 65 And Older, Essential Workers; Lightfoot Urges People Of Color To Get Vaccinated

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As she got her COVID vaccine at a Chicago hospital, Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged people, specifically communities of color, to get vaccinated as the vaccine rollout enters Phase 1B.

At the beginning of the news conference at St. Bernard Hospital in Englewood, the head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Doctor Allison Arwady, administered the Pfizer COVID vaccine to Mayor Lightfoot.

Phase 1A began weeks ago where health care workers got their COVID vaccine. Phase 1B, which began Monday, now includes Chicagoans age 65 and older and frontline essential workers. Also included in this round are homeless shelters and correctional facilities.

Who is a frontline essential worker?

  • Correctional workers and first responders
  • Grocery store workers and manufacturing/factory settings with outbreaks
  • Daycare, K-12 and early education workers
  • Public transit, other manufacturing, and agriculture workers
  • Continuity of government and postal workers

"Increasingly, people are optimistic and hopeful and recognizing the importance of what this vaccine will mean to their lives because literally, it will save lives," Lightfoot said. "I'm a little nervous, as I always have when I get a shot, but I'm excited to prove and demonstrate to Chicagoans, for particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods, that this vaccine is safe, and that it will save your life."

Arwady said despite getting her COVID vaccine shot, she is still wearing her face mask and said everyone getting a shot still needs to wear a mask.

"We do know that even a 94 to 95% protection rate means that if you're exposed to COVID, there's still a one in 20 chance. But if you're not doing all the things that help, you still could become infected with COVID," Arwady said.

The mayor said that based on the city's numbers, communities of color are alarming low for people getting the COVID vaccine.

"Since the beginning of this crisis, Black and Brown individuals are disproportionately affected by this horrible virus. The underlying health conditions, born of systemic racism, lack of access to good quality healthcare or food and pharmacy deserts and the just plain deserts of hope and opportunity," Lightfoot said, who added more work will be done to make sure people are educated about the vaccine and get their shots.

"We have gone door to door to educate and connect people to local healthcare providers. Try to bust through myths, so that we could address concerns with facts and the truth that we have and who will continue to bring testing to those neighborhoods, most in need. And still, despite all of these efforts. we have too many neighborhoods plagued by high case rates and soaring positivity rates."

Lightfoot said while she is not discouraged, she said she is determined not to let communities of color fall through the cracks and not get the testing and vaccine, free of charge.

"Vaccines came to our city six weeks ago. Since that time, nearly 108,000 Chicagoans have received their first vaccine dose, but based on an analysis done by the CDPH, only approximately, 17%, of those people are Latinx, and worse, only about 15% are Black," Lightfoot said.

According to the city, the Protect Chicago project has outlined the city's response to the pandemic, including vaccine distribution. On Monday, the city launched Protect Chicago Plus program including three main strategies:

  • It targets 15 high-need communities based on the City's COVID vulnerability index, to ensure that a significant part of the city's vaccine supply goes to these communities.
  • It pushes vaccine and city resources directly to these communities, partnering with community stakeholders to develop tailored engagement strategies, vaccine clinics and strike teams to reach deep into the communities and touch those who may be disconnected from more traditional vaccine administration channels.
  • It works with community stakeholders to identify settings and groups where vaccine access will most quickly decrease COVID transmission risk and removes barriers to vaccinating these individuals as quickly as possible.

The city said the neighborhoods targeted under the Protect Chicago Plus initiative include: West Englewood, New City, Gage Park, North Lawndale, South Lawndale, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Roseland, Archer Heights, Washington Heights, Austin, Montclare, South Deering, Belmont Cragin and Humboldt Park.

CBS 2's Meredith Barack reports, vaccination sites in the suburbs are opening up.  But people still will still have to be patient when trying to schedule an appointment.

Kenneth Keim has been trying for weeks to schedule a vaccine appointment.

"I'm 78, I've got high blood pressure, AFib and I had skin cancer," Keim said.

Trying several different avenues to get his shot at a shot.

"Walgreens and CVS, you can't get beyond the menu. With the Jewel Osco you can select from several stores, however when they present the calendar you can't select a date," he said.

As CBS 2 spoke to the Garfield Ridge resident, appointments in Cook County opened up online.

Ken and his wife will get their vaccines next week. But even if you're in phase 1B, it could be awhile before you receive your vaccines.

"We have 34,000 first doses of vaccine coming every week. We have 363,000 Chicagoans over the age of 65. Another 350,000 are those frontline essential workers. So we don't even get enough vaccine to vaccinate 5% of the people who would like to be vaccinated," Arwady said.

Today the Governor unveiled the first of what will be more than two dozen mass vaccination sites in Illinois. This one at the Tinley Park Convention Center. The first shots will be given Tuesday. This location is open to anyone in the 1A or 1B groups that live or work in Cook County.

Appointments for the Tinley Park location can be made at Vaccine.CookCountyIL.Gov.

Mayor Lightfoot also announced the Protect Chicago Plus Initiative, which will address racial equity in the COVID-19 response and vaccine distribution as early data shows low vaccination rates among Black and Latinx communities.

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