UCMC Expects to Begin Vaccinating Staff Against COVID-19 as Soon as Dec. 16

Chicago public health officials expect 23,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to arrive next week, pending emergency approval by the FDA. 1,950 vaccine doses are expected to go to UCMC workers.


Outside UC Medical Center

By Caroline Kubzansky, Managing Editor ('20-'21)

The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) plans to start vaccinating employees against COVID–19 as soon as December 16. In an email to UCMC and Biological Sciences Division staff, UCMC COVID–19 incident commander Krista Curell said UCMC expects 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first shipment sent to Illinois. 

Those who get a dose from the first shipment will need to return in three weeks to be fully immunized from a second dose. The vaccine is not fully effective without two doses and those who have received one are still at risk for contracting the virus. Pfizer stated Tuesday that the first dose is 52 percent effective and that the second dose boosts immunity to 95 percent.

Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Allison Arwady said that as many as 23,000 doses of vaccine for COVID–19 will be available to Chicago health care workers at a press conference on Wednesday. Governor J. B. Pritzker announced that Illinois will receive 109,000 total doses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it would “rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization” (EUA) for the vaccine.

According to a WBEZ report, the city could receive between 100,000 and 150,000 doses of vaccine by the end of the year. But that will only cover a fraction of Chicago’s 400,000 health care workers, who are first in line for immunizations so they can safely treat patients without the risk of getting infected themselves.

UCMC has 9,792 employees. Curell said that all UChicago medical personnel are likely to be fully vaccinated by February or March.

UCMC is dividing its personnel into three priority groups to administer the vaccination: those who have direct contact with patients, those who work on-site but do not interact with patients, and staff whose work is currently remote. Within the three groups, workers in higher-risk groups (those who are over 65, or with immune system conditions, for example) will be prioritized to receive the vaccine. 

Chicago is currently weathering a peak in COVID–19–related deaths, about 17 or 18 every day. Statewide, Illinois has seen about 832,951 cases of COVID–19 since February 29, and has a seven-day average number of reported cases of about 8,980. Arwady said the city is now experiencing a post-Thanksgiving spike in cases, undoing some of the progress the city has made in bringing its caseload down from mid-November levels. Last month, it was estimated that one in every 15 Chicagoans had COVID–19. 

Curell told UCMC staff in a Wednesday email that staff who would be working the hospital’s vaccination clinic would be receiving scheduling information shortly.