Chicago Mayor: It could take a year and a half to vaccinate everyone

First, there’s some good news out of the Windy City. When they initially began rolling out the vaccinations earlier this month, the participation rate among Chicago’s healthcare workers and other 1A group members was a dismal 30 percent. As of this week, that number has increased to 90%, with “vaccine hesitancy” rapidly declining as the city undergoes yet another surge in new cases and hospitalizations. But there’s never any good news without some bad news lurking around the corner, right? In this case it’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s announcement that the rollout is going so slowly that it could be some point in the summer of 2022 before they manage to vaccinate 100% of the people wishing to receive a shot. How is that even possible? (CBS Chicago)

At the rate Chicago is going one month since the first COVID-19 vaccination in the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says it would take a year and a half to get everyone vaccinated.

The city is now receiving less of the vaccine than when the rollout began, but inside the 1A community, those eligible for the first round of doses, more and more people are warming up to the idea of getting the shot.

“About nine out of 10 that have initially said no changed their mind,” said Dr. Afya Khan, an infection control practitioner with Loretto Hospital.

Dr. Khan is quoted as saying that the demand for vaccinations is “crazy” at this point, specifically among hospital staff. But at the same time as demand is increasing, supplies are constantly running out and people have to wait for the next shipment to arrive.

Mayor Lightfoot blames all of this on Donald Trump and “Washington” of course.

Lightfoot said the vaccine rollout has not delivered on promises. She blames sluggish shipments from Washington.

So far 74,000 people have been vaccinated in the city. Last week 32,000 doses arrived. Next week will bring just over 34,000. It’s a slight improvement, but there are 600,000 Chicagoans up next in the 1B category, which includes everyone over 65.

Contrary to popular belief, nobody is “sitting on” a huge batch of vaccine doses in Washington. Pfizer and Moderna are shipping out vials as fast as they can produce them and they are going directly to the places listed in a directive from the CDC. Large, densely populated cities (including Chicago) are getting the lion’s share of the vaccines. I know from watching the local news in our region that some counties without any large cities in them are getting shipments of vials numbering in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands.

But Lightfoot’s predictions simply don’t make any sense. First of all, both Pfizer and Moderna are scaling up their production capacity every week. On top of that, Johnson & Johnson is anticipating approval of their vaccine any day now. Even better, the J&J vaccine is given in a single dose without the need to plan for patients returning for a second shot weeks later. They say they are ready to hit the ground running and should be producing millions of doses per day in the very near future.

It’s also worth remembering that as areas with lower populations and lower rates of participation begin maxing out in the coming months, the vaccines that would have gone to them will be redirected to areas like Chicago where demand remains high. It’s simply unreasonable to believe that Chicago will continue to receive only 34,000 doses per week across the summer and fall.

I’m not sure whether Mayor Lightfoot is lacking in good advisers on this subject or just looking to generate some headlines by hurling mud at the Trump administration. If it’s the latter, you can rest assured that once Joe Biden is in office, she’ll magically find someone else to blame for the botched rollout and distribution of the vaccine. Of course, whoever she winds up finding to blame, you can bet it won’t be herself.