As shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine are set to hit cities across the U.S. this week, the Chicago-area prepares for its initial doses.
Over the past couple weeks, health experts have attempted to explain how the coronavirus vaccine will work and debunk any myths attached to its usage.
Here’s what we know so far about the COVID-19 vaccine:
When Can I Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine in the Chicago Area?
After being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use last week, the Centers for Disease and Control made recommendations for coronavirus vaccination best practices.
The FDA said the first doses of the vaccine should go to healthcare workers, specifically people working with coronavirus patients, and people at long-term care facilities.
In Chicago, first in line will be “healthcare workers who treat COVID patients or conduct procedures that put them at high risk for COVID-19 spread” at all 34 hospitals in the city, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
CDPH anticipates receiving 23,000 doses in the initial batch, though reports of those numbers have fluctuated. Health officials say additional doses of the vaccine will arrive in Chicago every week thereafter, though exactly how many is unclear.
After frontline health care workers, the city says priority will be given to: residents and staff at long-term care facilities, workers in essential and critical industries including emergency services personnel, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions and people ages 65 and older.
According to the CDC, pregnant women and people under the age of 16 should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until more testing has been done, which could take place as soon as January, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike have reminded residents that the general public will not receive the vaccine for several months, but more details will become available over the next few weeks.
Illinois and Chicago officials explained that people will know when it is their turn based on a major upcoming messaging campaign and through working with employers and healthcare providers.
City officials said the goal is for all adults in Chicago to be vaccinated at no cost to the individual in 2021 through doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, health centers and other providers.
Where Can I Get the Vaccine When It’s Available to Me?
According to the IDPH website, hospitals will provide the COVID-19 vaccine to healthcare workers in the initial dose.
As the vaccine is able to be more widely distributed, several thousand providers will carry the vaccine from doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies to hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers.
Ezike has also noted that she hopes the state can provide a vaccination process similar to testing where people can do drive-through vaccinations in communities’ churches and hospitals.
Will I Have Any Side Effects From Taking the Vaccine?
Health officials have warned of potential mild side effects with the coronavirus vaccine based on clinical studies, however they are likely signs of building protection.
Former FDA Chief Dr. Margaret Hamburg told CNBC that side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are indications that the shots are helping build protection against the disease.
“You’ll know when you get the vaccine, but that also tells you it’s working and that your body is responding,” added Hamburg.
Health experts have shared that 25-50% of the 75,000 patients involved in the Pfizer and Moderns trials experienced some side effects. These primarily included flu-like symptoms, such as:
- Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- Muscle soreness
- Loss of appetite
Similar to all vaccines, the coronavirus vaccine has a low risk for allergic reactions. In Britain, two individuals had an allergic reaction to the vaccine since vaccinations began last Tuesday. According to reports, the two both have a history of allergies.
Can I Get COVID-19 From the Vaccine?
No. Health experts have explained that the vaccine itself does not contain the live COVID-19 virus.
Arwady said people who take the vaccine cannot contract the coronavirus, but symptoms may temporarily look similar.