Check out answers to frequently asked questions, including: Am I eligible for a coronavirus shot? Where can I get one? Can I go to a pharmacy? How long do I have to wait?
As Chicago expands its COVID-19 vaccination program, here are some answers to questions on who can get the shots and where to get them.
Who’s eligible for the vaccine?
• Health care and nursing home workers: Health care workers as well as employees and residents of nursing homes and congregate facilities have been eligible since December and those individuals can still be vaccinated.
• Seniors and essential workers: In late January, Chicagoans age 65 and older and more than 300,000 essential workers became eligible for the vaccine. The group includes police and firefighters, correctional workers, grocery store employees, educators and transit employees. Go to www.chicago.gov/covidvax for a full list.
• Residents with high-risk medical conditions: In late February Illinois expanded the eligible group to include residents 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions. Examples of conditions given by the state include obesity, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, smoking, heart conditions, chronic kidney diseases, cancer, solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, pregnancy and persons with disabilities.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said each local health department will determine the process for those vaccinations.
Suburban Cook County started vaccinating those with health conditions March 26, while Chicago started March 29. The city has a broader list of health conditions for this eligible group, though smokers aren’t included on the list.
• Additional essential workers: Are eligible as of March 29 in Chicago. The city has said that group will include workers in: transportation and logistics; water and wastewater; food service; construction; finance, including bank tellers; information technology and communications; energy; legal; media; public safety like engineers; and higher education.
When will everyone else become eligible for a shot?
General public aged 16 and older: Pritzker said all state residents 16 and over will be eligible for shots beginning April 12, although he did allow local officials to open things up sooner. Chicago and suburban Cook County have said they are unlikely to meet that target. President Joe Biden has said he wants the vaccines available to all adults in the U.S. by May 1 and Chicago officials said they plan to meet that goal.
How do I sign up to get vaccinated? Where do I go?
Vaccinations are handled through appointments either through a doctor or other health care provider, a pharmacy or an employer. There are also designated sites for mass vaccinations run by cities and counties.
A map of Chicago vaccinations sites is at chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid19-vaccine/home.html.
Suburban Cook County residents can check eligibility at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov/.
Go to https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/vaccination-location for a map of locations around Illinois.
Among the sites offering vaccines:
The United Center: Since March 10, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been operating a mass vaccination site at the United Center. Officials have limited who is eligible for an appointment there to all residents 16 and older from certain ZIP codes in vulnerable areas of the city as well as all seniors who live in Chicago.
As of March 31, those ZIP codes include 60608, 60609, 60619, 60620, 60621, 60623, 60624, 60628, 60629, 60632, 60636, 60639, 60644, 60649, 60651, 60652 and 60653.
More details are at chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid19-vaccine/home/united-center.html of by calling 312-746-4835.
Pharmacies: The city lists several where members of eligible groups under the state’s guidelines can sign up to get the vaccine. Some have started vaccinating those with underlying conditions, while others plan to wait until their counties expand eligibility:
• Walgreens at walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19
• Jewel-Osco at mhealthappointments.com/covidappt
• Walmart at walmart.com/cp/1228302
• Mariano’s at marianos.com/i/coronavirus-update/vaccine
• Chicago Costco Pharmacies (Lincoln Park)
• Chicago Costco Pharmacies (Medical District)
Also, CVS announced that it will give a limited number of shots at a single Chicago store location and two suburban Cook County sites, Flossmoor and Olympia Fields. Go to www.cvs.com to make an appointment.
What if I don’t have a doctor or health care provider?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced an outreach plan to engage residents in 15 South Side and West Side communities, largely areas of the city that include many uninsured residents with poor access to health care. The city is working with hospitals, health clinics and other local organizations to inform neighbors on vaccination details. For theses communities, the city has widened the eligibility rules. Go to the city’s Protect Chicago page for more details.
Will it cost me money to get the vaccine?
The vaccine is free to everyone.
Do I need multiple shots?
To be fully effective, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines approved for COVID-19 each require a second dose, which will either be three or four weeks apart from the first dose. Typically your second appointment is scheduled at the time you receive your first dose.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is becoming more available, only requires one shot. Experts say all the vaccines are very effective against stopping infections and extremely effective against preventing severe infections. Individuals will not be able to choose which vaccine they get.
Do I still need to wear a mask after getting the vaccine?
Two weeks after getting the second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, your chance of contracting the virus will be dramatically reduced. No vaccine is completely protective but both of the COVID therapies are more than 90% effective. Johnson and Johnson, which was tested more recently in more countries and against more variants of the virus, is more than 70 percent effective, which officials say is still excellent.
But because there has not been research yet on whether you can still spread the virus to others, officials recommend continuing to take precautions like mask wearing even after you get vaccinated. The CDC said that those who have been fully vaccinated can follow looser restrictions when interacting with others who also have been inoculated.