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Yes, Evanston, there is a COVID-19 vaccine and it is coming to town this week. 

Early doses will be distributed to AMITA Saint Francis Hospital and NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Evanston Hospital for use for hospital workers caring for COVID-19 patients, said Ike Ogbo, Health and Human Services Director, in a press release this morning. CVS and Walgreens will begin vaccinating residents and staff of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes in late December. The City is working with several providers to vaccinate paramedics.

Vaccine doses will be limited initially, but will increase over the coming weeks and months. Priority will be given to essential workers and those with higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to city health officials.  

Suburban Cook County has identified several priority populations to receive the vaccine in Phase 1 (see below). It appears that Evanston, which has its own public Health Department, is following a similar protocol. Rachel Rudin, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Medical Officer and Co-Lead Cook County Department of Public Health stated it will take 4-5 weeks to vaccinate hospital healthcare workers.

Suburban Cook County Health Department’s Phase 1 Priority Groups

1a – Healthcare workers, beginning with hospital based, highest risk of exposure

1a – Long-term care facility (LTCF) staff and residents

1a – Unaffiliated healthcare workers including EMS personnel

1b – (The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s recommendations pending) Essential workers, including first responders, corrections officers, education sector, food and agriculture, utilities, transportation

1c – (ACIP recommendations pending) High risk adults

Mr. Ogbo stated that vaccines will be available to the general public at designated vaccination sites in the months to come. Dates for subsequent distribution phases have not yet been determined.

Mr. Ogbo reminded residents, “Providing this safe, effective vaccine to all community members who wish to receive it will take months, not days; and it’s critical that we all continue to follow public health guidance, including practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, and washing hands frequently, whether we’ve received the vaccine or not.”

The Pfizer vaccine, the first to be reviewed by the FDA, was granted Emergency Use Authorization last Thursday, Dec. 10.  The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and two doses given three weeks apart.

The Moderna vaccine will be reviewed by the FDA tomorrow, Dec 17.  There are currently 60 vaccines in human trials, with 13 vaccines in Phase 3, which consists of large-scale trials testing safety and efficacy.