Chicago COVID-19 vaccine shipments ‘back on track’ following massive winter storm delays last week

Chicago has caught up on its delayed vaccine shipments from last week’s snowstorm as of Tuesday, public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said while again stressing the need for more doses.

Last week, thousands of COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Chicago had to be rescheduled because of slowed shipments stemming from the winter storm that particularly disrupted the South, where much of the city’s shipments originate. Some of those doses didn’t come by the end of the week as Arwady had said she hoped, but as of this week there should be no more delays, she said.

“We got a notice today that all of the vaccine shipments are back on track for Chicago, so thanks to everybody,” Arwady said during a Tuesday question-and-answer session. “This is a lot of work from the people working in the warehouses to the people working on the shipping to really make sure that we could get back on track.”

In total, the city receives about 160 weekly shipments, and three of them were outstanding as of last Friday, Arwady said. But by Tuesday morning, all of last week’s delayed doses have arrived, and the new shipments the city expects this week should have arrived or will arrive with no issue, Arwady said.

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But Chicago is far from finishing phase 1b of its vaccination distribution plan, which opened on Jan. 25 and included front line essential workers and residents 65 or older, Arwady warned. This week, there will be enough first doses for 8,300 vaccinations per day, up from previous weeks.

By the end of the week, however, the city will only have had enough shots for 31% of the more than 700,000 people eligible in phase 1b. That doesn’t include the phase 1a health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff that haven’t gotten vaccinated.

“That is still the answer to why not everybody’s been able to get a vaccine,” Arwady said. “We could be doing more as soon as we get more vaccine.”

Some of last week’s delayed shipments also contained second doses that people are recommended to receive within a certain window, but Arwady has said the vaccine will still be effective if people have to wait. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work even if people get the second injection up to six weeks after the first one. The CDC guidance, however, is a 21-day interval for Pfizer and 28 days for Moderna.

The winter storm last week dumped 18 inches of snow in some parts of the Chicago area and snagged vaccine delivery operations in the South, which Arwady said was less equipped to respond to heavy snowfall and ice. But she reassured Chicagoans that no doses went to waste because facilities still have the capabilities to store the vaccine.

In the long run, Arwady said last week, “I don’t have any concerns about it impacting long-term efficiency.”