Chicago Department of Public Health Marks One Year of COVID-19 Vaccinations, With Progress Made and More Work to be Done

December 15, 2021

Close to 75% of eligible Chicagoans have had at least one dose

CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) today marked the 1-year anniversary of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Chicago by recognizing the incredible work of public health professionals and community partners who have helped stem the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

In the past year:

  • Nearly 1.9 million Chicagoans, or 74 percent of residents age 5 and up, have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the year since COVID-19 vaccinations have been available in Chicago, and more than 67 percent of eligible Chicagoans are fully vaccinated.
  • More than 465,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered at the City-operated vaccine clinics and at hundreds of mobile sites and pop-up events since January.
  • More than 21,000 doses have come directly to residents through Protect Chicago At Home.

“I want to thank all the Chicagoans who have stepped up to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities in the last year by getting the vaccine,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “We have come a long way as a city since those first vaccinations a year ago. However, make no mistake: we have lost more than 6,000 Chicagoans already, and the virus is still with us with new variants emerging. Please encourage your friends and loved ones to protect themselves with this vaccine.”

The first vaccinations in Chicago were administered to frontline healthcare workers on Dec. 15, 2020. Since then, in accordance with federal guidelines, vaccination eligibility has opened in phases to all Chicagoans age 5 and above.

“While our work continues, I want to take a moment today to thank all the dedicated people and organizations that have worked so hard to bring the vaccine to every corner of Chicago – the incredible team at CDPH and other City agencies, and also all of our many community, healthcare and pharmacy partners who have done the bulk of the vaccinating,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “You have saved countless lives through your work.”

“Esperanza Health Centers has administered over 125,000 COVID-19 vaccines in hard-hit neighborhoods since they became available one year ago,” said Carmen Vergara, RN-BSN, MPH, chief operations officer at Esperanza Health Centers. “This could not have been accomplished without strong community based partnerships and the equitable approach to vaccine distribution lead by CDPH and the Mayor’s office.”

From the moment the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the City of Chicago, equity has been at the center of the City’s vaccination strategy. The development of the Chicago COVID Vulnerability Index (CCVI) – a quantitative approach to prioritizing neighborhoods based on sociodemographic factors, underlying health conditions, occupational factors, and COVID-19 burden – helped the City identify community areas that had been most impacted by the pandemic. Using this tool, CDPH worked with community partners on a data-driven plan to direct vaccines to the most highly impacted areas. The vaccine was administered across the city where people live, work, and play – clinics housed in CTA buses, at local barber shops, at places of worship, and inside peoples’ homes: the Protect Chicago At Home program, where Chicagoans can make appointments to get vaccinated at home, has been a model for the country.

“CDPH continues to work in communities throughout Chicago, in partnership with trusted organizations, to connect residents with COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Arwady. “Because of the vaccines, we have been able to reopen schools safely, and reopen businesses, restaurants, cultural institutions and more. COVID-19 vaccines are far and away the most powerful defense we have against this virus and its variants, making it critical that all eligible Chicagoans get vaccinated.”

Equity continues to be a focus as communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the outbreak, have consistently had lower rates of vaccination. While citywide more than 78 percent of Chicagoans age 12 and up have gotten at least one shot, for Black Chicagoans that number is just 53 percent, and for Latinx Chicagoans 12 and up just 64 percent have gotten at least one shot. 

In addition, the City is also still focused on increasing vaccination rates among seniors – including that critical booster dose. More than 79 percent of Chicago seniors have had at least one shot. However, just since Thanksgiving, unvaccinated older Chicagoans (60y+) have been seven times more likely to die or be hospitalized from COVID-19 than their vaccinated counterparts.

“The overwhelming majority of people being hospitalized with severe illness from COVID and dying are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Arwady. “I can’t say it enough: the vaccine is safe, it’s effective and it’s free, and you can get it throughout the city at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies and through CDPH.”

All COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses are offered at no cost to everyone. No insurance or government ID are required. For more information and to find a vaccine, visit

A look back at notable milestones over the past year:

  • Dec. 15, 2020 – First vaccinations of Chicago frontline medical workers
  • April 19, 2021 – Eligibility for vaccination opens to anyone 16 and over
  • May 12, 2021 – Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine approved for youth age 12- to 15-years-old
  • Oct. 25, 2021 – First booster shots available for Chicagoans
  • Nov. 3, 2021 – Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine approved for children ages 5 to 11
  • Nov. 24, 2021 – Protect Chicago 77 goal achieved, 77 percent of all Chicagoans age 12 and up had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Some highlights of the City’s vaccination campaign:

  • Protect Chicago Plus, a targeted vaccine distribution program designed to even better reach the individuals and communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was launched in February and dedicated vaccine and additional resources to communities most impacted by COVID-19, especially Black and Latinx residents, and then partners with local community stakeholders to develop tailored vaccination and engagement strategies to help community residents get vaccinated.
    • In the initial 15 Protect Chicago Plus communities, individuals with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine went from 6 percent to nearly 50 percent – made possible in part by more than 124,000 doses allocated at the City’s temporary clinics and at special events.
    • Protect Chicago Plus evolved as the City ramped up hyperlocal vaccine outreach in communities with low vaccination rates, including door-to-door canvassing. In partnership with community organizations, canvassing teams trained through the City’s online Vaccine Ambassador program are going door-to-door to encourage residents to get vaccinated. Canvassing teams have knocked on more than 19,500 doors across the city – resulting in nearly 5,400 conversations with residents about COVID-19 vaccines.
  • City Vaccination Sites: More than 465,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered at the City-operated vaccine clinics, mobile sites, and pop-ups since January – including more than 300,000 vaccinations at the United Center mass vaccination site (March-June) and more than 2,800 doses at eight family clinics with pediatric vaccinations (November and December).
  • Protect Chicago at Home: To maximize access to COVID-19 vaccines, Protect Chicago At Home provides convenient in-home vaccination for all Chicagoans. Initially launched in in March to serve homebound seniors and others with medical conditions and/or limited mobility, the program expanded to all seniors 65+ in May, and to all Chicagoans in June. On November 15, shortly after approval of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, Protect Chicago At Home also began serving children 5 to 11 years old. To date, approximately 21,000 doses have been administered through the program. In addition, approximately 26% of doses went to Chicagoans age 65+.