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What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and Northwestern

Phases, essential workers and an Evanston survey of interest

Northwestern is working with public health partners regarding vaccine access.

With hope and optimism around the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, there are also many questions about Northwestern University’s role in the process.

We’ve gathered important information for students, faculty and staff — originally distributed via University messaging — based on the University’s most recent conversations with state and local departments of public health.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has developed a vaccine plan, following initial guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The plan currently prioritizes vaccine availability into different phases:

Phase 1(a)

  • Health care workers
  • Long-term care residents and staff

Phase 1(b)

  • Individuals over age 64
  • Frontline essential workers 

Phase 1(c)

  • Those with high-risk medical conditions
  • Other essential workers 

Phase 2

  • All others

Vaccine distribution is expected to be managed by public health through at least Phase 1(c), and vaccination sites will be determined by IDPH. At this time we cannot confirm that Northwestern will be able to distribute the vaccine directly to the University community in the future. 

According to the Illinois plan, “frontline essential workers” includes those working in education, specifically teachers and student support staff. Luke Figora, Northwestern’s chief risk and compliance officer, says the University is working to understand exactly who falls into this category and, similarly, what high-risk medical conditions might qualify someone to be part of Phase 1(c). 

“We will work with our public health partners to provide them with information wherever it can be helpful in getting members of the Northwestern community access to the vaccine, and we will share updates as we learn them,” Figora said in a Jan. 7 message to campus. “We’re also working internally to identify our frontline essential workers to ensure we can provide that information to public health, if needed.”

Certain members of the University community, given their exposure to healthcare settings, will be included in Northwestern Medicine’s vaccination plan. For now, their focus remains on individuals considered in Phase 1(a) above.

In the Jan. 7 message, Figora emphasized the importance of recognizing that, while a vaccine may not become widely available until later in 2021, students, faculty and staff should continue to be vigilant in following the basic protocols that help make a safe and healthy campus: wearing masks, physical distancing, testing, handwashing and health monitoring. 

Evanston vaccination interest survey

At this time, Northwestern will not require the COVID-19 vaccine. However, all are strongly encouraged to get the vaccination when they become eligible. 

In the meantime, as announced in a follow-up message to campus on Jan. 11, the City of Evanston has released a COVID Vaccination Interest Form. It is not a vaccine registration form, but it will allow Evanston officials to better understand local demand for a vaccine as it develops its implementation plan. 

You should take a minute to complete this form if you:

  • Are a member of the Northwestern community.
  • Want access to the vaccine when it is available from the Evanston Department of Public Health.
  • Live or work in Evanston (this includes students who expect to be in Evanston during Winter and Spring terms). 

See a list of FAQs for more information about vaccines and Northwestern.

Topics: Campus Life
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