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Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Status

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

As we enter 2021, there is optimism and excitement surrounding the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Many of you have raised questions about Northwestern University’s role in the vaccination process. This update shares what we know as of today.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has developed a vaccine plan, following initial guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That plan currently prioritizes vaccine availability into different phases:

Phase 1(a)

  • Healthcare workers
  • Long-term care residents and staff
Phase 1(b)
  • Individuals over 64
  • Frontline essential workers
Phase 1(c)
  • Those with high-risk medical conditions
  • Other essential workers
Phase 2
  • All other individuals

Based on our initial conversations with state and local departments of public health, we understand that vaccine distribution will be managed by public health through at least Phase 1(c). Vaccination sites will be determined by IDPH. It is unclear whether Northwestern University will be able to distribute the vaccine directly to our community at some point in the future.

Some of you have noted that “frontline essential workers” should include those working in education, specifically faculty members and frontline staff. Our understanding is that IDPH is still working to determine who falls into this category, and similarly, is still defining what high-risk medical conditions would qualify someone to be part of Phase 1(c).

We will work with our public health partners to provide them with information wherever it can be helpful in getting members of the Northwestern University community access to the vaccine, and we will share updates with you as we learn them. We are working internally to identify our frontline essential workers to ensure we can provide that information to public health, if needed.

Certain members of the Northwestern University community, given their exposure to healthcare settings, will be included in Northwestern Medicine’s vaccination plan. For now, their focus remains on individuals considered in Phase 1(a) above.

It is important to recognize that the vaccine might not be widely available until later this year. It is essential that we continue to follow all of the precautions to create a healthy campus — including wearing masks, physical distancing, testing, hand-washing and health monitoring. These expectations also apply to those who have received the vaccine, unless public health guidance around these precautions change.

At the present time, Northwestern University will not require the COVID-19 vaccine; however, we strongly encourage each of you to be vaccinated when eligible and will support your efforts to do so. Getting vaccinated will be the key step in overcoming the pandemic globally and locally here at Northwestern.

We will continue to share more information with you as it becomes available.

Luke Figora
Senior Associate Vice President
Chief Risk and Compliance Officer