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Lori Lightfoot speaks behind podium

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference at City Hall in the Loop, where officials encouraged Chicagoans to get vaccinated with the new bivalent COVID-19 booster that specifically targets the omicron variant, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

Pat Nabong

Two new COVID-19 vaccines available in Chicago starting this week

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday urged the 1.8 million already-vaccinated Chicagoans to overcome their “COVID fatigue” and get newly-updated booster shots to get ahead of a cold-weather surge that will give the virus more chances to mutate.

Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady described the new vaccines as a “perfect match” to protect against the two 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.

Chicago already has been allocated 150,000 doses of the updated vaccines, with more shots on the way in the coming weeks. That’s “20 times” the rate of the roll-out of the original COVID-19 vaccine that required state and local health officials to prioritize essential workers and the most vulnerable populations.

In addition to those doses in Chicago, 193,000 doses of the new vaccines have arrived elsewhere in the state, according to a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. No figures were available for how many doses of the new vaccines have been administered.

“Please don’t think, ‘Oh, this is just more COVID news. I’m really tired of COVID. I don’t need to do anything.’ We need Chicago to get this updated vaccine,” Arwady told a City Hall news conference. She just finished isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus.

“It’s new. It’s different. And it will give better protection than what we’ve had previously.”

Arwady said she expects a surge of COVID cases as temperatures drop and outdoor events are driven indoors. But Chicago will be in a “good place” unless new variants emerge.

“When you get a mutation that, in some way, makes the virus stronger, makes the virus more contagious, makes the virus more likely to make people sick, that version out-competes all of the other versions of the virus,” Arwady said.

“The more transmission that is happening, the more chances there are for the virus to mutate. And when the virus mutates, that is when we see the emergence of new variants.”

She added, “You getting vaccinated — it is for you and for your family. But it also, at the population level, helps us give less opportunities for that virus to mutate.”

Lightfoot made an impassioned plea for Chicagoans to overcome their “COVID fatigue” and roll-up their sleeves.

“COVID is still here. It’s still contagious. It’s still deadly. ... You are doing yourself, your family and ... our city a favor [by getting the updated vaccine] because COVID spreads so rapidly,” she said.

“We lost a lot of Chicagoans who died — needlessly, in my view — because they weren’t vaccinated. So this gives us another opportunity to emphasize to folks, ‘COVID’s still here. People are still dying every single day of COVID.’ ... This is not the flu. It is much more serious. It’s much more contagious. And, unfortunately, it’s much more deadly. We’ve got to get people vaccinated.”

The new shots are designed specifically to target the omicron subvariants, and have received final approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccines are available starting this week to city residents, provided they already have completed the primary series of vaccinations, the mayor and the Chicago Department of Public Health announced at a news conference.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s health commissioner, discussing two new COVID-19 vaccines at a news conference Tuesday morning at City Hall.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s health commissioner, discussing two new COVID-19 vaccines at a news conference Tuesday morning at City Hall.

Pat Nabong

The new vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are “bivalent boosters.” That means they mix two versions of the vaccine. The idea is to boost protection against the original coronavirus strain while also protecting against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants.

The Pfizer version is available to people ages 12 and up. The Moderna version is for people ages 18 and older.

To find a vaccination site, check or call the city’s COVID-19 call center: 312-746-4835.

More than 130 pharmacy locations in Chicago are expected to receive the updated vaccine this week.

Walgreens and CVS offer online scheduling snd some appointments for the boosters will be available as early as Wednesday. Availability depends on how quickly an individual store gets supplies of the shots.

“Stores may still be receiving [vaccines] on a rolling basis,” a Walgreens spokeswoman said.

Contributing: Brett Chase

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