On April 12, 2021, Illinois will move to Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, which all members of the population 16 and above can reserve a vaccination appointment, but residents of the city of Chicago are not included, as the city has a separate schedule of expanding vaccination eligibility. The timeline for Chicago has proceeded to Phase 1C since March 29, and given President Joe Biden’s order on the deadline of universal adult eligibility, it is expected to move to Phase 2 by April 19.
Because of work, I am eligible for vaccination under Phase 1C, and I scheduled an appointment and got my first-dose vaccine under the Cook County Community Vaccination Program in early April. To reserve a spot was like a lucky draw. Recall the first rollout of mass vaccination appointments after my sign-up, there was a batch of nine thousand appointments available on March 31. After half an hour of waiting in the virtual waiting room, I was told that all appointments were taken. During the second rollout on April 1, with 20 thousand appointments available, some friends of my successfully secured a spot, but I was still not lucky enough to get one. On the next day, at my third attempt, I finally reserved an appointment.
My vaccination appointment is scheduled at a state-run vaccination center in Forest Park. The operation is monitored by the authority with support of the U.S. Army. Running around 50 vaccination stations there, the National Guard took care of the registration and nurse practitioners executed the vaccination. The vaccine I am receiving is Pfizer/BioNTech, and an appointment for the second-dose vaccine was immediately scheduled in the third week after the first-dose. The whole process was very smooth and only took 10 minutes, then we were asked to rest for 15 minutes to observe our reactions after the injection. I was advised to provide a health check-in on a text messaging and web app called V-Safe for the next seven days after vaccination. The well-organized operation made me feel safe and extremely glad to be vaccinated. Feeling grateful, I did not experience any severe side effects, only a sore arm for one and a half days.
People show mixed feelings on the effectiveness and safety of the available vaccines, but in the past weeks, the numbers of confirmed cases in Illinois and Chicago bounced back from the record-low number of this year in mid March. Also, summer is coming, and I believe many people cannot hold themselves to stay home for another year. So the way to go is to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and everything can get back to normal sooner.
If anyone is still struggling with finding an available appointment, sites like the Cook County Community Vaccination Program, Zocdoc, and Vaccine Finder are recommended by the authorities. But more search engine sites have been developed along the time. One is vaccinespotter.org, an open-source project to visualize the appointment availability updated every minute. For Illinois, the site includes 14 pharmacy chains with over a thousand locations mostly in Chicago. This project started to develop in early February and is still under development, but it is so far the most user friendly and up-to-date vaccination appointment information site I have seen.
Starting from April 12, a number of 150 thousand first-dose vaccination appointments will be available in the suburbs near Chicago, primarily in the 11 state-run vaccination sites and pharmacies. Vaccination providers in the city will also get more supplies. Go schedule one if you have not vaccinated yet!