The Rundown: Chicago’s uneven vax rollout may have cost lives

Chicago vaccines
People wait to receive a COVID-19 shot at the Esperanza's Vaccination Center in a gym in West Englewood in Chicago on May 4, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Chicago vaccines
People wait to receive a COVID-19 shot at the Esperanza's Vaccination Center in a gym in West Englewood in Chicago on May 4, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

The Rundown: Chicago’s uneven vax rollout may have cost lives

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Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and thank you to everyone who bought a “Take it W B-Easy” shirt yesterday. If you missed it, don’t worry. I’ll let y’all know when it returns. Here’s what you need to know today.

(By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Vaccine disparities led to unnecessary deaths in Chicago, a new study finds

Chicago’s uneven distribution of COVID-19 vaccines may have cost the lives of more than 100 people during the spring wave of 2021, according to new research and modeling published by the University of Chicago’s Healthcare Ethics and Allocation Lab.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s top public health official, dismissed some of the underlying assumptions of the study and its conclusions.

“I think it’s a little bit simplistic to say that there were distribution strategies that led to those outcomes,” she said. “Everything we did was to try to decrease that inequity.”

City officials point to an initiative called Protect Chicago Plus meant to help boost access to vaccines in areas hit hardest by the pandemic. But an analysis of data shows the initial phase of the effort did not prioritize some vulnerable communities. [WBEZ]

2. Omicron was in Europe before alarms went off

Dutch officials said today they found the new omicron variant in coronavirus samples taken a week before South Africa reported the new variant to the World Health Organization.

That means cases have now been identified in the Netherlands, Belgium and France from before the European Union imposed a travel ban on South Africa. While officials in South Africa were the first to identify the variant, it’s not known where omicron originally emerged.

It could take scientists two weeks to answer key questions about omicron, such as how effective are current vaccines against this new variant, how quickly does it spread and does it cause severe or mild illness. [NPR]

The CEO of Moderna today said he doesn’t think the vaccines will offer as much protection, adding that “all the scientists I’ve talked to … [say], ‘This is not going to be good.’ ” [Washington Post]

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports the White House is “looking at how much money they would need in a worst-case scenario, in case the administration needs to immediately purchase mass quantities of vaccines designed to inoculate specifically against the new variant.” [WaPo]

3. Stocks tumble as investors weigh fallout from omicron

Stocks fell sharply today after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the central bank will dial back its pandemic-era support of the economy just as the omicron variant begins to spread.

Powell also said inflation is likely to persist well into next year, and concerns over omicron could keep people from returning to in-person jobs, potentially slowing the economic recovery and prolonging bottlenecks in the global supply chain.

Financial markets around the world have been unsteady since the discovery of the omicron variant last week, and investors are paying close attention to news surrounding vaccines. Stocks also fell today after the head of Moderna said current vaccines may not be as effective against omicron. [NPR]

4. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with Jan. 6 committee

Mark Meadows, who was then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff during the Jan. 6 insurrection, is cooperating with a House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney,” said committee chairman Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss. “He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition.”

Today’s news is a surprise reversal from Meadows, who had previously refused to engage with the House investigation. But it comes as lawmakers have warned Meadows that he could face criminal contempt charges if he did not cooperate.

Meadows is the highest-ranking member of Trump’s inner circle who is known to be cooperating with the committee. [NPR]

5. Josephine Baker becomes the first Black woman and first American inducted into France’s Pantheon

Entertainer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker was today given France’s highest honor by being inducted into the French Pantheon, the nation’s mausoleum of heroes.

As NPR reports: “The idea of laying Baker to rest in the Pantheon was first proposed in 2013, and gained traction in more recent years as France reckons with racism, its colonial past and questions about the success of its model of social integration.”

Baker is buried in Monaco, where her body will remain, but her presence at the Pantheon will be in a plaque on a cenotaph. Among those honored at the Pantheon include Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie. [NPR]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The Supreme Court tomorrow will hear a case seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade. WBEZ will air live coverage beginning at 9 a.m. [WBEZ]
  • New York City will authorize government-supervised drug injection sites in an effort to curb overdose deaths. [NPR]
  • Chicago voters may get a chance to vote on new ward maps that could determine how racial and ethnic groups are represented in the City Council. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Heads up: Chicago’s overnight winter parking ban returns. [Block Club Chicago]

Oh, and one more thing …

Superstar Rihanna is now a national hero in the island nation of Barbados.

You might have heard the news that Barbados has decided to remove Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and become the newest republic in the world, a move coming 55 years after its independence from the U.K.

What I didn’t know is that Rihanna, a native Barbadian, was also declared a national hero in a ceremony this week.

“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the singer, referencing her song “Diamonds.” [NPR]

Tell me something good …

As the end of the year approaches, I’m seeing more and more “best of 2021” lists. So I’d like to know, what was the best movie, book, TV show, play, song or video game you enjoyed this year?

@adamfork2 tweets:

“My best of 2021:

TV - Mare of Easttown

Movie - Dune

Music - The War on Drugs, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”

And @EvieVoxley tweets:

“I was gifted #Nevermoor by @digressica in May and I’ve read all 3 books thrice already. I haven’t been so enchanted by a series since HP⚡; the world building, characters, & magic system are amazing! Little kids should be dressing as Morrigan Crow for Halloween. Read it!”

Feel free to email me at or tweet me at @whuntah, and your responses might be shared here this week.

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