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Update on Northwestern’s vaccination planning efforts

Dear Northwestern community,

This email provides an update to our last message on Northwestern’s vaccination planning efforts. Although the vaccine picture continues to evolve and certain aspects remain unclear, we have some additional information to share.

Phases 1a, 1b and 1c of the Illinois plan

Illinois remains in phase 1b of its vaccination plan. Right now, most of the State’s efforts continue to be focused on those over the age of 65. Some frontline essential workers have been vaccinated, though much of the focus on frontline essential workers will begin in the coming weeks after those 65 and older have had the opportunity to receive a vaccine. Most healthcare workers or those working in clinical setting were vaccinated in phase 1a.

A number of students, faculty and staff already have been vaccinated because of their age or because they work in healthcare settings. The University has identified those who are eligible to receive the vaccine in 1b, and has recently confirmed those categories of individuals with public health. We expect more members of our community to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.

You may have seen an announcement from the State about including those with certain medical conditions in phase 1b. So far, public health departments remain focused on vaccinating the initial 1b populations and haven’t broadly extended access beyond those groups.

We currently believe that higher education faculty and staff are broadly targeted for inclusion in phase 1c, though we are waiting for confirmation by the State. More information about phase 1c will follow as we learn more.

Reminders about vaccine supply

As a reminder, Northwestern University does not currently have direct access to the vaccine supply. Vaccines have been procured by the federal government and are allocated to the states. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) then allocates its supply to the local public health departments – including Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Evanston Health and Human Services Department (EHHS). The local public health departments then allocate supply to hospitals and pharmacies, and retain some for their own municipal vaccination events.

As you have probably seen in the news, vaccine supply remains limited. Some of the weekly supply is reserved for second doses, which limits the number of new vaccinations that can occur. Our partners believe that the supply should increase in March and be more widely available as spring and summer approach.

We have received a number of questions about Northwestern Medicine’s (NM) role in the process, and whether NM can vaccinate all Northwestern faculty, staff and students. NM receives its vaccine supply through city and state agencies and is following established guidelines. Currently, based on those guidelines, they have invited those individuals who are patient facing (CDC phase 1a) and established patients 65 years and older to schedule a vaccination appointment. However, due to reduced supplies, first dose vaccination appointments remain limited. Additional appointments will be added as vaccine supply becomes available.

Northwestern University as an approved vaccine administrator

We are happy to share that Northwestern University recently received necessary approvals by the IDPH and CDC to administer the vaccine directly to students, faculty and staff once the vaccine supply is more readily available. The University has prepared a vaccination site on the Evanston campus, developed systems for reporting vaccination activity to the State, and trained staff to administer the vaccine.

It will likely be a few more weeks before the vaccine supply is great enough that public health is able to allocate any vaccines directly to Northwestern. To ensure we are prepared, we are running two very small pilot vaccination events on campus in partnership with EHHS. A small number of NU faculty and staff over the age of 65 or who work in healthcare settings who have not yet been able to obtain the vaccine elsewhere will be participating.

The City of Evanston and EHHS have been supportive partners throughout the pandemic, which will continue into the vaccination stages. The City and Northwestern have just executed an agreement that will provide certain Northwestern facilities to the City for future community mass vaccination efforts. We are excited to be able to help the City and use our resources to help increase the speed and scope of vaccine delivery once the supply is available.

Signing up and other ways to receive a vaccine

As mentioned before, in the early stages of the vaccine rollout, most members of the Northwestern community will likely be vaccinated through vaccine providers not associated with Northwestern. If you don’t have a primary medical provider, there are a number of vaccine providers available to you when you are eligible.

If you work or live in Evanston, please remember to complete its Vaccine Contact Form. The City will be using this information to reach out to community members as they qualify for the vaccine.

The City of Chicago has partnered with Zocdoc to facilitate access to the vaccine. You can visit the Zocdoc website to see whether you qualify for the vaccine and identify locations with open vaccine appointments.

Please continue to be patient as the vaccine rollout across the State continues. We will update you as we learn more.