Ahmed Idrees, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago, tested positive for coronavirus at the end of last year, before he was able to get vaccinated.
His symptoms were mild and he recovered from his loss of taste and smell after a month and a half.
“The night before I got my positive test, I lost my taste,” Idrees said. “I was eating my mom’s food and I couldn’t taste the food at 100 percent, it was faded. So I went and got tested as soon as possible the next day. A few days later I lost my sense of smell.”
Last April, Idrees received two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. He plans to receive the booster shot as well in order to continue to protect himself and those around him from getting infected with the virus.
According to data from the City of Chicago Data Portal, 62.7% of Chicago’s population has been fully vaccinated as of Dec. 9, 3.5 percentage points higher than the fully vaccinated state population and 1.9 percentage points higher than the fully vaccinated population nationwide.
Dr. Ronald Hershow, infectious disease epidemiologist and clinician affiliated with UI Health, said Chicago’s vaccine roll out has had varying success when considering roll out to specific age groups or racial and ethnic groups.
“In terms of how Chicago is doing, I guess it depends on whether you’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person,” Hershow said. “Overall we’ve got more than 60% of Chicagoans vaccinated. We’ve done really well with the elderly, with 60 to 69 year olds having 79% vaccination rates and 70 to 79 year olds having 73% vaccination rates.”
Hershow said there are lower vaccination rates among young adults and children in Chicago, whose vaccination eligibility opened up more recently.
“The ones who are lagging a little bit by age are the young 12 to 17 year olds,” he said. “And young adults are a bit of a dissapointment, at 62% vaccination rate, but even that is comparable to the U.S. rate as a whole. So even in our least vaccinated age groups, Chicago is doing at least as well as the country as a whole is doing.”
Hershow added that there are disparities when it comes to vaccination rates by race and ethnicity.
“Rates of vaccination are higher for whites than they are for Latinx or Blacks,” Hershow said. “Among Blacks, vaccination rates in Chicago are 47% and among Latinx it’s about 56%. Both of those groups are lagging somewhat behind whites who have a 65% vaccination rate.”
Based on data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, as of Dec. 10 there have been 18,007,906 vaccine doses administered in Illinois and 59.2% of the population is fully vaccinated. There have been 2,319,511 doses of the booster shot administered in the state.
As of Dec. 10, there have been 1.88 million confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois, with 26,801 confirmed deaths. There have been 353,012 positive coronavirus cases in Chicago since the beginning of the pandemic, accounting for 18.7% of Illinois’ positive case total.
According to the CDC, 484,290,896 doses of the vaccine have been administered nationwide. Fully vaccinated individuals account for 60.8% of the country’s population.
According to data compiled by Our World in Data from international government agencies, approximately 56% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
However, only 7.1% of people in less-wealthy countries such as Nigeria, Syria, Yemen and others have received at least one dose as access to vaccines continues to be a problem. Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo have the lowest percentage of people with at least one dose of the vaccine, at 0.01% and 0.06% respectively.
The World Health Organization identified the Omicron variant as a “variant of concern” over the Thanksgiving holiday. The variant was first reported by South African government and health officials and reached the US by Dec. 1.
Against the advice of the WHO, the U.S. has imposed travel restrictions on eight African countries: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
In a Nov. 29 statement Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said that the city is “very engaged in the heightened discussions regarding the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.” Arwady also urged people to get their booster vaccine as soon as possible.
On Dec. 7 a case of the Omicron variant was detected in a Chicago resident that had been visited by an out-of-state traveler who also tested positive for the variant. The resident had been fully vaccinated and received their booster shot.
The Omicron variant has been detected in 20 states so far. According to the WHO the Omicron variant has been detected in at least 38 countries and appears to be more contagious than the Delta variant.
“This Omicron variant, by virtue of all these mutations it possesses, may be somewhat incrementally more able to evade vaccine immunity,” Hershow said. “The higher you can stimulate that immunity, and the more broad the immunity that you’re stimulating, the better off you will be against it.”
The CDC encourages everyone 18 years of age and older to get their booster vaccine to mitigate the variant’s spread and to continue to wear masks and follow other health safety precautions.
“All of those factors that we see in the genetics of the variant are driving us to make the case for getting the vaccine if you haven’t gotten it already,” Hershow said. “And if you have gotten it, make sure you get your booster as soon as you can so our population is as immune as possible to the challenge of Omicron.”
Interview with Reporter Laaiba Mahmood
Interview with Red Line Project reporter Laaiba Mahmood on COVID-19 positivity rates and Vaccine rates on the local, state and national levels. Host: Sarita Cavazos