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Like many of you, I’m ready to roll up my sleeve and do my part to put an end to this pandemic.
Our City’s Health and Human Services Department is ready, too. As one of only four state-certified municipal health departments in Illinois, Evanston City staff and volunteers have been planning, training and preparing for mass vaccination events and public health crises long before “Covid” ever entered our vocabularies.
If you were in Evanston in 2009, you may remember hearing about or even attending one of the City’s community vaccination clinics, where thousands of residents were vaccinated during the H1N1 pandemic. Ike Ogbo, who leads our Health and Human Services Department, was a part of that effort.
As our COVID-19 vaccination campaign gains momentum, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on our City’s plans and progress, set expectations for the months ahead, and provide answers to a few frequently asked questions.
· How many vaccine doses has the City received so far? How many have been distributed?
Through Jan. 11, the City has received 5,225 vaccine doses and has distributed approximately 5,000 of those doses; 4,125 doses have been provided to Evanston hospitals to administer to their healthcare workers; 70 doses have been administered directly to paramedics and first responders; 800+ doses have been administered directly to non-hospital healthcare workers; and any remaining doses will be administered to additional Evanston healthcare workers later this week.
· What about our long-term care facilities?
Long-term care facility residents and staff are receiving on-site vaccinations from CVS and Walgreens as part of a federal partnership. Those vaccinations began in late December, and are anticipated to continue through the first quarter of 2021.
Although the City is not managing this portion of vaccine distribution, we are in frequent contact with our long-term care facilities and the Illinois Department of Public Health, which is overseeing this process.
· How will I know when it’s my turn to get the vaccine?
If you haven’t already, please complete the City’s Vaccination Interest Form (español). Completing this form will support the City’s ongoing planning and distribution efforts, and will allow the City to notify you when the vaccine is available to you. Please complete this form for each member of your household.
Although the vaccine has been authorized only for those 16 years and older, the City is now encouraging everyone who’s interested in receiving the vaccine when it becomes available to them to complete the form, even those under 16.
· Where is the vaccine being distributed?
Currently, while supplies are limited, the City is hosting closed vaccination clinics to administer vaccines to priority groups outlined in our phased distribution plan. You can read more about this plan on the City’s COVID-19 Vaccination page. As supplies increase, the vaccine may become available at pharmacies and doctors’ offices, similar to flu shots, as well as at additional City vaccination events open to the general public.
· Where are we in the distribution process?
We are currently in the first phase, Phase 1a, which includes healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and paramedics.
Our next phase, Phase 1b, could begin as early as next week or soon thereafter depending on the availability of vaccines and state guidance. This phase includes frontline essential workers, those living in congregate settings, and individuals over the age of 65. Police officers and firefighters, teachers and daycare workers, public transit employees, grocery store workers, and manufacturing workers are among those included in this priority group. See the IDPH website for details.
After the distribution to these groups, Phase 1c will begin, and will include individuals age 16 to 59 with high-risk medical conditions, other essential workers, and those over the age of 60. Additional details about this group will be available as we move through Phase 1b.
Vaccines will then be made available to the rest of the general public. All Evanston adults are expected to have access to the vaccine in 2021.
· Why can’t I register to receive the vaccine now?
Vaccine supplies are currently limited, and it’s unknown exactly how many doses the City will receive from week to week. For this reason, the City continues to plan closed vaccination events on a weekly basis to administer available vaccine doses to priority groups.
· What if I miss my opportunity to get the vaccine?
Similar to boarding an airplane, if you miss your first opportunity to “board the plane” and receive your vaccine, you can be vaccinated at the next available opportunity.
· Why aren’t vaccines being distributed faster?
The pace of vaccine distribution is entirely dependent on the amount of vaccine the City receives. The good news is, it’s anticipated that vaccine supplies will increase significantly over the next several weeks and months, allowing the City to accelerate distribution.
· When will teachers and support staff be vaccinated?
Education sector employees are frontline essential workers, and are included in Phase 1b of the City’s distribution plan. That phase is expected to begin in the next several weeks.
· When will children be vaccinated?
The FDA has not yet authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for those under the age of 16. Clinical trials will need to be conducted before it’s determined if a vaccine is safe and effective for them.
· How do I know the vaccine is safe?
In authorizing the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the FDA followed an open and transparent review process that included input from independent scientific and public health experts, and a thorough evaluation by the agency’s career scientists to ensure they met the agency’s rigorous, scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality.
Further, other countries with their own independent medical review boards have also approved these vaccines.
· Is the vaccine required?
There is no federal, state or local requirement to receive the vaccine; however, the City’s Health and Human Services Department strongly recommends the vaccine to those 16 years and older.
It’s possible that some employers may require their workers to be vaccinated, with exceptions.
· How is the City keeping residents informed?
Keeping the community informed has been a top priority throughout this pandemic, and it will remain a top priority as we begin our public vaccination campaign. For now, you can find regular progress updates in the City’s weekly eNewsletter (subscribe here), website, and social media channels. And, as noted above, please complete the City’s Vaccination Interest Form.
· Finally, when can we stop wearing masks?
Whether you’ve had the vaccine or not, please continue to follow public health guidance, including practicing social distancing and, yes, wearing a mask. Over time, as more people receive the vaccine, it’s anticipated that these preventive measures will be rolled back.
Providing the vaccine to every resident and worker who wishes to receive it is a massive undertaking, and it will require patience, flexibility, and time. But I’m confident that – just as we’ve done throughout this pandemic – we will roll up our sleeves together and get the job done so we can return to a new normal.
Stay safe, be well, and thank you for your continued efforts.