Chicago health officials urge residents to get new Covid-19 boosters

Chicago health officials are getting ready for another big vaccine roll-out.

Nearly 1.8 million Chicagoans could soon be eligible for updated Covid-19 boosters, designed to protect against the latest Omicron variants — BA.4 and BA.5 — that make up more than 99.7% of COVID cases in Chicago and the rest of the country.

The CDC advisory committee is meeting Thursday to give the OK to the new boosters. The FDA already signed off.


Chicago’s public health director is pushing for people to get the boosters as soon as they're available.

"This is a big deal," Arwady said, noting the importance of getting ahead of winter COVID surges that provide opportunities for the virus to mutate in unpredictable ways.

Anyone over 12 who has completed their initial round of COVID-19 vaccine shots will be eligible for the booster shot. One other requirement: Anyone receiving the new booster must wait at least two months after their last shot, regardless of whether it was an original vaccination shot or a previous booster.

"We very much are going to want people to get this updated vaccine right now and not wait three or four months," Arwady said.

"The match couldn’t be better," she said of protecting against the two dominant strains. "Getting boosted has significant improvement for protecting against hospitalization and especially death … hopefully it will help against breakthrough infections as well."

Arwady, who is recovering from a recent case of COVID-19, said she wished she could have gotten the new booster before going on a recent vacation, where she caught the virus.

She believes her chances of having contracted the virus "would have been quite a bit lower."

The Chicago Department of Public Health website will guide people to pharmacies and other locations where they will be able to get the jab.

The boosters will be manufactured by two companies — one produced by Moderna will be available to people 18 and older and one produced by Pfizer-BioNTech will be available to people 12 and older.

Arwady deferred to federal guidance expected to be released in the coming days when asked whether pregnant people or those who recently had the virus should get the new booster.

Chicago has been allocated about 150,000 doses from the federal government to be shipped in the first week the shot becomes available with more following quickly as needed.

About 46% of the shots are expected to go to about 90 retail pharmacies in the city. The majority of the remaining shots will be distributed to other sites around Chicago, including hospitals.

Arwady cautioned that COVID-19 is still affecting Chicagoans, with one in 20 hospital beds in the city containing a coronavirus patient.

Arwady said she expects final federal approval for the boosters either Thursday or Friday, with shots going into arms around Chicago as early as Tuesday.

Arwady added the city will use its mass vaccination sites at city colleges, which have recently been more focused on Monkeypox vaccines, to meet the demand for the new booster.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.