City officials talk Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine distribution, limited supplies

Limited+vaccine+supplies+hinder+hopes+to+expedite+vaccine+distribution+as+the+city+continues+Phase+1B+rollout.+

Daily file illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

Limited vaccine supplies hinder hopes to expedite vaccine distribution as the city continues Phase 1B rollout.

Angeli Mittal, Reporter

To update the community on vaccine supply and distribution progress, Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty hosted another virtual “Coronavirus Q&A” Thursday alongside local health officials, two weeks after the city began Phase 1B vaccine rollout.

As of Jan. 28, the city distributed 7,800 of its 8,900 allocated COVID-19 vaccine doses to Evanston hospitals and qualified individuals in the Phase 1A and 1B brackets.

At a previous Coronavirus Q&A, the city detailed its plan to first prioritize the oldest members of the 65 and over age group in Phase 1B, which Hagerty estimates to include about 20,000 Evanston residents. Initially, the city vaccinated residents 85 and older. On Wednesday, the city expanded distribution to those 78 and older, and is planning to vaccinate those 75 and older this upcoming week.

“Those most at risk are over the age of 65, and the older you get, the greater the risk is to you,” Hagerty said. “Our approach is, those most at risk, with the limited quantities that we have, we want to vaccinate first.”

Public Health Manager Greg Olsen said vaccine distribution for Phase 1B is based on age in accordance with the state’s plan. However, when Phase 1C begins, Olsen said the city intends to consider pre-existing health conditions when prioritizing subgroups. Hagerty said the city has not yet considered personal health situations due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Olsen said the Illinois Department of Public Health has been notifying the city of how many doses to expect each week. Until the city can vaccinate more individuals in its semiweekly events or better forecast future rollout, Hagerty said the city must work with the limited vaccine supply.

To ensure residents are vaccinated according to the prioritization system, the city has found ways to address reports of individuals being dishonest about their place in the phase approach.

“Since we are vaccinating individuals mainly based on age and Phase 1A healthcare workers, when we send out the registration link every day, we’ll go through everyone who has signed up,” Olsen said. “If they’re not of a certain age, we will send an email follow-up asking them to explain their inclusion in Phase 1A.”

To eliminate long lines outside the Levy Senior Center and prevent eager individuals from showing up early to their 15-minute vaccination appointments, Olsen said the city has decreased the number of people per appointment slot and is encouraging residents to show up at their scheduled time.

During the Q&A, the city answered questions about the prospect of getting vaccinated outside of Evanston. Because Evanston is one of four Cook County cities that has its own state-certified public health department, the county is not yet allowing Evanston residents to be vaccinated at any county-wide events.

However, some exceptions do apply. An Evanston resident working in a different city can get vaccinated through the county in which they work. Hagerty suggests residents register through Cook County’s COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program as well so they can get vaccinated wherever vaccination slots first become available.

The city is taking additional measures to prioritize safety at vaccination sites, alleviate uncertainty with vaccine rollout and increase accessibility as it continues to vaccinate elderly Evanston residents.

“We are ensuring that the seats are six feet apart,” Evanston Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo said. “We are disinfecting high-contact surfaces and we have our paramedics in place just in case someone reacts harshly to the vaccine.”

The city also plans to launch an online vaccine information dashboard this Friday or early next week. Ogbo said this is intended to increase transparency in terms of the number of vaccines it receives and distributes.

While the federal initiative Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program enables CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens to deploy staff to senior living facilities for on-site vaccination, not all Evanston congregate homes are participating.

Ogbo said the city seeks to meet required accessibility accommodations, starting on-site vaccination for these centers as early as next week.

“Our entire approach to this disaster and this pandemic is (the) whole of community response and recovery, and that means we all have a part to play to take care of one another and to take care of our community,” Hagerty said. “The end goal here is we want to get all of us vaccinated.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @amittal27

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