But it’s clear there are there are differences between state and city officials on this matter, with both sides providing different data, specifically on how old whites, Latinos and Blacks are when they die of COVID.
Under standards issued earlier this week by the Pritzker Administration, both essential workers and those aged 65 to 75 are to have access to the vaccine when COVID inoculations more to Phase 1B. Both the city and state are still in Phase 1A, in which the exclusive focus is front-line medical workers and nursing home residents and staff.
Pritzker and Ezike acknowledged that in setting the 1B age at 65-plus, they were using a different standard than advised by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control panel, which set the age at 75 and above. Both said they did so because, at least in Illinois, large numbers of minority people are dying between age 65 and 75, with the average Black victim 72, the average Hispanic victim 68 and the average white victim 81.
Lowering the priority age to 65 is just a question of “equity,” they said, suggesting that waiting until 75 would be too late to save many minority seniors from death.
But Arwady appears to be setting a different course. Her department legally can make many of its own decisions.
In the interview, she emphasized that while the city has not yet made a final decision it now s inclined to start 1B distribution with those aged 75 and 400,000 essential workers, many of them minorities. It will get to those aged 65 to 75 “probably halfway through” inoculating the 400,000, she said, adding that the difference should be no more than “a few weeks.”
Arwady suggested that the state data failed to recognize that many minority people get COVID at the work and therefore die “in their 40s and 50s.” As a result, she said, as a matter of equity vaccines need to get out to those groups as early as possible, earlier than elderly white who are in good health.
Arwady’s office later released data it says support that argument.
The data do indicate that among Latinos, a hefty share of deaths occurred among those under age 65—a total of 610 compared to 843 above that age. But the figures are different among African-Americans—469 below age 65 and 1,186 above; and whites, 123 and 792, respectively.
By age group for Chicagoans as a whole, 355 died below age 50, 901 aged 50 to 64, 1,058 aged 65 to 74 and 1,959 at 75 or above.
In her interview, Ezike asserted that the city and state “are on the same page.” Local health departments have the power to tailor distribution to their needs, and there were gradations within Phase 1A, with not all hospitals or nursing homes receiving doses at the same time.
However, other sources familiar with the situation confirm that there appears to be a difference between the two, but it will be hard to say now much of one until more vaccine doses are received.
Arwady said the city now is receiving about 32,000 doses a week and has been told by federal officials to expect that figure to hold constant into February. The city gets its own allotment directly from the federal government.
Ezike gave a somewhat more optimistic view, saying the state expects about 240,000 doses a week, a figure that could rise when Joe Biden takes office as president later this month.
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