Englewood’s 60621, which has the third lowest vaccination rate in Chicago’s 58 zip codes, has a zero positivity rate as the BA.2 variant becomes the dominant strain that has the potential to cause a new surge in coronavirus cases across the U.S.
Zip code 60707, which includes parts of Austin, Belmont Cragin and Montclare, also had a zero positivity rate as of March 29. The vaccination rate in that zip code is 93.4 percent. (Zip code 60707 is the only city zip code that borders a non-city neighborhood).
But in Englewood’s 60621 zip code, only 67.1 percent of its residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
About 85 percent of Chicago residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine and the city’s overall positivity rate is 1.3 percent, up from .9 percent the previous week.
The data on 60621 and 60707 was pulled from Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard March 29 after the city updated its latest statistics at 5:30 p.m.
The positivity rate in that 60621 zip code has been lower than 4 percent since January 19, when the positivity rate was 17 percent. On February 15, the zip code had a positivity rate of 1.1 percent, the lowest since it reported a zero positivity rate this week.
The zero positivity rate may be attributed to the drop in official COVID-19 testing as residents use free home test kits from the U.S. government. Zip code 60621 has just 13,404 residents, the ninth lowest out of the city’s 58 zip codes. Overall, 143 residents in 60621 have died from COVID-19.
A total of 18 out of 20 Black zip codes on the South and West sides remain lower than the city average of 1.3 percent as of March 29.
A total of just three people have died over a seven-day period, compared to five the previous week. Of 20 Black populated zip codes, 18 had no COVID-19 deaths over a seven-day period. The few deaths are in stark contrast to the triple-digit weekly death toll in January during a deadly surge over the holiday season.
But Chicago’s overall positivity rate has been rising for three weeks with new coronavirus cases popping up in zip codes on the North Side, which has the highest vaccination rates in the city since doses began in December 2020.
A Crusader analysis found at least six zip codes with positivity rates well over the city average.
In zip code 60654, which includes Lake View, Lincoln Park and North Center, the positivity rate was 5.5 percent and 82.2 percent of residents had been fully vaccinated. In zip code 60611, which includes parts of the Gold Coast and River North, the positivity rate was four percent and 84.3 percent of its residents were fully vaccinated.
The uptick in cases comes as the contagious BA.2 version of the Omicron variant is now the dominant strain in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the sub-variant is even more contagious than the Omicron variant, which is now the most common coronavirus strain in the U.S. Medical experts say the BA.2 variant does not appear to make people any sicker than the Omicron strain and vaccines protect ones against it. The CDC estimates that the BA.2 strain now accounts for more than half, or 54.9 percent, of coronavirus cases. Over 70 percent of COVID-19 cases in the Northeast are BA.2, the CDC estimates.
Health experts fear the BA.2 variant could trigger another surge in cases in the U.S., as it has in the U.K. and other parts of Europe.
On Tuesday, March 29, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with support from the CDC, approved a second booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for older people and certain immunocompromised people.
The authorization comes at an opportune time, some health experts say, since an uptick in people protected by vaccines and boosters could help limit the number of deaths and hospitalizations caused by BA.2.
The agency amended the emergency use authorizations as follows:
- A second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine may be administered to individuals 50 years of age and older at least four months after receipt of a first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
- A second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine may be administered to individuals 12 years of age and older with certain kinds of immune compromise at least 4 months after receipt of a first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine. These are people who have undergone solid organ transplantation, or who are living with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.
- A second booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at least four months after the first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine to individuals 18 years of age and older with the same certain kinds of immunocompromise.
“Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from COVID-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals. Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could help increase protection levels for these higher-risk individuals,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Additionally, the data show that an initial booster dose is critical in helping to protect all adults from the potentially severe outcomes of COVID-19. So, those who have not received their initial booster dose are strongly encouraged to do so.”
The FDA’s decision applies only to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and the authorization of a single booster dose for other age groups with these vaccines remains unchanged. The agency will continue to evaluate data and information as it becomes available when considering the potential use of a second booster dose in other age groups.