On Jan. 22, the City began vaccinating residents 85 years and older. Photo from City of Evanston.

Mayor Stephen Hagerty updates residents on what is known about vaccine availability and distribution and what they can expect in the next few weeks.

 “Mr. Mayor, how come I’m not vaccinated yet?” I’ll answer this and other pressing questions filling my inbox now. If you’d prefer to watch a video, I held a “Coronavirus Q&A” on vaccinations on Jan. 22 with our Health and Human Services Director, Ike Ogbo, and infectious disease doctors from NorthShore University HealthSystem and AMITA Health Saint Francis. 

But, if you’re like me and you prefer long form, below are answers to some of the most pressing vaccination questions we’re receiving.

Why haven’t more Evanstonians been vaccinated? 

Between the City, our hospitals and health care providers, Northwestern University, and pharmacies, we are prepared to vaccinate as many residents as possible. The problem is we do not yet have an adequate supply to vaccinate everyone in Evanston. This is a nationwide problem, not unique to Evanston.

Well, are the Feds doing anything to fix this problem? 

Yes. Just yesterday, I was on a call with mayors from across America, Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Murthy, President Biden’s nominee to serve as Surgeon General. It’s clear that the new Administration is focused on increasing the supply of vaccines to residents in each state, with a goal of 100 million vaccinations in President Biden’s first 100 days. You can learn more about President Biden’s 7-Point National Plan here.

Mayor, are you confident that vaccinations will increase?

I am. That said, I’m disappointed that the number of weekly vaccine doses allocated to the City of Evanston by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has decreased over the last three weeks. Vaccine quantities ought to be increasing as time goes on. That said, states across the country, including Illinois, are also frustrated that they’re not getting more doses.

This whole vaccination process seems chaotic. What is the City doing to bring order to this situation?

It’s clear that we need better organization and communication between all the partners involved in this effort, including the federal, state, and local governments and the health care providers, including hospitals and pharmacies. We need clear, consistent projections of the quantity of vaccines we’ll receive week to week. We’re working closely with our elected representatives and health officials at every level to better determine, coordinate, and communicate the process. This is critically important as more vaccines become available.

Personally, I’m not surprised that there is confusion at this point in time. This is a huge, complex undertaking – vaccinating 300 million people using various partners. Anxiety is understandably high and we’re all eager to get ourselves and our loved ones vaccinated, but I ask for your patience and faith that better communication, coordination, and projections will be forthcoming.

Even if there’s a shortage of vaccines, I’m curious where I am in the order and when I should expect to be vaccinated?

First, if you live or work in Evanston, I hope you’ve completed the Evanston COVID Vaccination Contact Form.

This will allow the City to contact you when the vaccine is available to you. Please complete the contact form for all members of your household, no matter their age.

Information about the priority categories and phases for Evanston can be found in the City’s Vaccination Plan, which is informed by CDC- and IDPH-recommended priority groups.

The reason we cannot at this time give a good indication of exactly when you’ll be able to get vaccinated is that we don’t know how many doses we’ll receive in any given week. We need this information in order to schedule vaccination events further in advance. As the quantity of vaccine doses increases over time, we anticipate we’ll be able to provide more information on when vaccines will be available to different priority groups.

How do I know you received my vaccination contact form?

First of all, thank you for completing the form. Although the system, Survey Monkey, does not allow for automatic confirmation email replies, on Saturday the City sent a notification to all those who completed the form so far (excluding those who have already been vaccinated or received registration emails for vaccination events). The email subject line is “Vaccination Interest Form Received” and it looks like this. 

Moving forward, the City will send a confirmation email to those who have completed the form within a week of form submission. If you fill out the form, click “Done,” and see the confirmation page, you can be confident that we received your submission.

Now that I’m in the system, how do I register for a vaccination event?

The process is described here.

Bottom line, you will be notified via email – or by phone if you don’t have email – once your priority group is next up for registration. Until then, please be patient.

Priority groups make sense to me, Mayor, but I know some folks who seem lower down on the priority list who have been vaccinated. What’s up with that?

The City is following the priority group phases outlined in our Vaccination Plan. Right now, our focus is on vaccinating residents age 65 years and up.

While there may be individual cases of an essential worker, such as a grocery clerk, transit worker, or teacher, getting vaccinated before someone over the age of 65, this is rare, and is likely due to vaccine distribution through pharmacies or hospitals.

While it’s easy to be frustrated when you learn and assume that someone less at risk for severe illness to COVID-19 has been vaccinated before you, please keep in mind that at the end of the day, we need to get everyone vaccinated. Every person that gets the vaccine is one less person who will potentially require future COVID-19 medical care, and possibly one less person who can transmit the disease. (Note: Whether a person who’s been vaccinated can transmit the disease is still being studied. Hence the reason we need to continue to wear masks for some time.)

Where is Evanston currently on the priority list?

The City is currently in Phase 1b, where we estimate there to be 15,000 to 20,000 eligible residents.

To date, the City and hospitals have vaccinated health care workers and front line emergency responders who wished to receive the vaccine. CVS and Walgreens are vaccinating long-term care facility residents and staff.

We’ve begun initial vaccinations of critical City employees and those 85 and older. This coming week, we’ll also begin vaccinating those 75 and older. When we complete this group, we’ll then vaccinate those 65 and older.

If you’re living independently, are 75 years or older, and would like the vaccine but have not yet completed the COVID Vaccination Contact Form, please do so.

Mayor, I’m frustrated! I received an email to register for an Evanston vaccination event but when I logged on there were no available times left. Why did you get my hopes up only to dash them? Also, how do I know you’re not giving priority to others in my age/priority group over me?

I wish we had enough vaccines to avoid this problem. If you were unable to register for your first opportunity to get the vaccine, you will receive another invitation when the next event is scheduled. The City schedules vaccination events only after we learn how many doses we’ll receive and when. This means that, while supplies are limited, these events are only scheduled a few days in advance, and there won’t be enough slots to accommodate all those eligible.

Please understand that we have many more eligible residents interested in receiving the vaccine than we have doses available. We’ll continue to follow our phased approach to vaccine distribution to ensure that those most vulnerable to COVID-19 are prioritized, but this is going to take time. Additionally, the City will continue to look for ways to improve our process.

I just registered for this week’s event, but my spouse, who’s the same age, wasn’t able to register, but needs the vaccine more than I do. Can they go in my place?

I understand that we each want to keep our friends and loved ones safe. One way to do that is to get vaccinated yourself. Regrettably, we cannot have anyone transferring their registration, or worse, selling their registration, to another. Please know that your spouse will be notified of the next available opportunity.

At the vaccination events, the City will only accept the individual registered for the event. You will need to bring a form of ID with you. 

Where else will vaccines be available as the supply increases?

Ultimately, it’s expected that individuals will be able to get vaccinated through their pharmacy, physician, health care clinics, national retailers, possibly their employers, and their local health department. My hope is that as different channels open up that there will be coordination among the governments and different partners so that those most at risk are vaccinated first, and that we have a consistent message to share with the public.

If I have the opportunity to be vaccinated outside of a City of Evanston vaccination event, should I?

Yes. There’s no harm in registering to get the vaccine elsewhere. My only request is that you do so only with a reputable, trusted source, such as your doctor or pharmacy. Sadly, unscrupulous actors will appear at your door, on the phone, or via the Internet, offering you a vaccine for a fee. Don’t be duped.

If you’ve read this far, I know you’re thirsty for information on vaccinations in Evanston. You can find more Frequently Asked Questions here. The City will continue to do its best to keep you up to date as the process evolves and as more reliable information becomes available to us. I know more questions will be generated because of this message. We’ll arrange to have another “Coronavirus Q&A” in the next week or so to answer them. 

Lastly, please remember that vaccinations are only the beginning of the end of the pandemic. We need to continue to follow all public health protocols – wearing masks, socially distancing, avoiding large crowds, etc. – until we can get enough people vaccinated so that the virus has fewer places to go. 

Keep up the good work, Evanston, and continue to have faith, even when it’s frustrating and difficult. Together, we can and will rid our community, country, and world of this deadly virus.