Earlier this month, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Commissioner Scott Britton, Cook County Health (CCH) CEO Israel Rocha, and Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) Chief Operating Officer Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck held a press conference to launch a new COVID and flu vaccination awareness campaign called “Boost Up Cook County.” They also shared the recipients of $8.4 million in Building Healthy Communities (BHC) COVID response, recovery, and resiliency grants.
Boosters, COVID, Flu, and RSV
Just before Halloween, Cook County Health and CCDPH experts addressed their concerns over COVID-19, boosters, influenza, and RSV. Cook County Health’s expert, Dr. Greg Huhn, revealed that the national number of people receiving boosters and flu shots has been slow.
“As health professionals, I think we can say we are concerned,” he stated. “Historically, we know that the upcoming months typically lead to a surge in COVID. The weather is colder in much of the country including certainly here in Chicago. Parties move indoors and multigenerational families are gathering for the holidays.”
The new COVID boosters designed to combat omicron, Bivalent, “are going to be a critical tool to keeping people protected from severe illness and from being hospitalized.” Dr. Huhn said that Bivalent boosters protect people from some of the latest strains of COVID as well as the original.
Many people may be wondering if the injections actually work. “Vaccines work by providing instructions to the immune system on how to fight COVID. The boosters provide updated information as this virus has mutated,” added Dr. Huhn. Staying up-to-date on boosters ensures the body continues to have “the code to fight this disease.”
CCDPH Chief Operating Officer Dr. Hasbrouck gave some statistics for suburban Cook County. “In terms of Cook County, COVID-19 community transmission rates are currently low. However, we are expecting a likely surge in the winter.” He admitted that he couldn’t say this “with any real precision.”
“The good news is. 80 percent of residents in suburban Cook have gotten at least one shot. 70 percent of residents in suburban Cook have completed the initial series for COVID,” stated Dr. Hasbrouck. “The not-so-good news is that only about nine percent are up to date on their booster.”
He then turned his focus to the seasonal flu. “The activity has been increasing,” Dr. Hasbrouck announced. “In fact, if we look at influenza-like illnesses, those are trending up. Including something called RSV for both adults and children. And we have to remember that still up to about 60,000 will die from the seasonal flu as well.”
Currently, there have been 18 ICU hospitalizations reported this week. Since October 2, there have been 32 influenza-associated ICU hospitalizations reported.
In October 37,700 specimens have been tested for influenza. Of those, 8.7% (3,271) tested positive. This week, 1,529 of 7,124 (21.5%) reported specimens tested for influenza were positive, according to Chicago.gov.
The weekly influenza surveillance summary adds that the proportion of outpatient and emergency department visits for influenza-like illness is above local thresholds.
COVID-19 and influenza vaccines can be administered at the same time. Individuals 6 months old and older are eligible to receive these vaccines. People 5 years old and older are eligible to receive COVID boosters.
Looking for COVID Boosters
Anyone looking to receive these injections can call their healthcare provider or the City of Chicago’s influenza vaccination clinics. To schedule an appointment with the influenza clinic you can do so by calling 311 or visiting the city’s website.
They can also find free injections at vaccines.gov or myshotcookcounty.com. CCDPH is also conducting mobile vaccination clinics at various events, schools, and churches. Individuals can also contact their pharmacies to inquire about these vaccinations for those 3 years or older.
The Boost Up campaign encourages suburban Cook County residents to give the gift of health this holiday season.
“This message could not come at a better time,” said President Preckwinkle. “With the triple threat of COVID, seasonal flu, and RSV looming, now is the best time to Boost Up, so you have full immunity before gathering with family and friends…”
By Sheena Robertson
Cook County Public Health: Give Yourself and Your Loved Ones a Boost This Holiday Season to Avoid COVID & Flu
Chicago.gov: Chicago Flu Update
Cook County Public Health: Boost Up Cook County