Chicago's top doc warns slow booster uptake could lead to new variant
Dr. Allison Arwady says uptake on the new Omicron-specific booster has been slower than expected, which could potentially set the stage for a new variant.
CHICAGO (WLS) — Illinois reported 2,404 new COVID cases and 17 new deaths Wednesday.
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health says "daily deaths reported on weekends and at the beginning of the week may be low" and "those deaths will be captured in subsequent days."
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The Chicago area is seeing some of the lowest COVID community transmission levels since the start of the pandemic. Cook County and all surrounding counties are all in the green, low-transmission group.
There have been at least 3,804,665 total COVID cases in the state since the start of the pandemic and at least 35,208 related deaths.
As of Tuesday night, 1,149 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 156 patients were in the ICU, and 59 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
The daily case rate per 100,000 population is at 16.3.
Chicago's top doctor warns slow booster uptake could lead to new variant
For more than a month now, we have had access to updated protection against COVID-19. But in Chicago, few people are getting those new shots – and the city's top doctor says that if we don't improve those numbers, we could see a new variant.
While the Omicron-specific booster shot has been available for over a month, doctors say it's an uphill battle convincing their patients to get it.
"We get some patients that are super excited, that say, 'I'm ready let me get it,'" said Dr. Rene Roberts at Oak Street Health. "We have others who say, 'I've already gotten a couple boosters, I'm good,' so we have to work with them more encouraging them."
With the winter and holidays ahead, White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha urged Americans to get the new shot now, rather than waiting.
"Here is the most remarkable fact: if you are up to date with your vaccine, and if you get treated with a breakthrough infection, you're risk of dying from COVID is now zero," Jha said.
But, uptake has been slower than expected. In Chicago, just over 15% of eligible Chicagoans have gotten the new booster. Breaking it down by race, Latinos are the lowest at 3.9%, followed by Black Chicagoans at 5.5%, white residents at 14.3% and Asians at 8.7%.
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Chicago Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the numbers need to improve by three or four times for all races.
"So, if we don't get a lot of people this update vaccine this fall, we really are set up now in a great way for the potential of a new variant," Arwady said.
Dr. Arwady is especially concerned with the Latino & Black populations. If there is a COVID surge this winter, those two groups will be hit the hardest.
Oak Street Health Clinics are in minority neighborhoods. While vaccine hesitancy has been a challenge throughout the pandemic, Dr. Rene Roberts said convincing her patients to get the bivalent vaccine is all about building trust.
"From what I'm noticing, I'm having to have the conversation, maybe 2-3 times maybe a 4th"
As doctors and the Chicago Dept. of Public Health continue to push the the new vaccine, they are telling people to get the flu shot at the same time. Public health officials are predicting this year to be one of the worst flu seasons in years.
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