Note: An earlier version of this story stated that five counties were authorized to expand eligibility. The state has since clarified that all Illinois counties seeing lower demand for vaccinations can now expand eligibility at their discretion.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday authorized counties in the state seeing low COVID vaccine demand to begin vaccinating all residents 16 and older at their immediate discretion in order to "address a concerning possible trend in increasing COVID hospitalizations and case rates."
IDPH said in a statement that it had seen vaccine demand slow in several counties "with early signs of unfilled appointments and increased vaccine inventory."
As such, the state is authorizing counties with open appointments and slowed demand to expand vaccine eligibility in order to use doses currently available. IDPH noted that residents should contact their local health department to learn whether they have expanded eligibility.
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The state also announced Friday that it is sending "Rapid Response Vaccination Teams" to five counties where epidemiologists "have determined there is a need to administer doses quickly to blunt increasing trends," IDPH said. Those teams will administer single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccinations to residents on top of what the counties are already allocated.
Those counties are: Carroll, Ogle, Boone, Lee and Whiteside. Details on doses and how to make an appointment are as follows, per IDPH:
|Date||County||Make an appointment||Daily doses|
|March 31||Carroll County||http://www.ccphd.org/||800|
|April 1||Ogle County||https://www.oglecounty.org/departments/health_department/new_page.php||1,200|
|April 2||Boone County||https://events.juvare.com/IL-IDPH/eaa35aa4-f83d-48ee-8660-520d401803aa/||1,000|
|April 3||Lee County||http://www.lchd.com/covid19-vaccinations/||600|
|April 5||Whiteside County||https://www.whitesidehealth.org/covid-19-information.html||600|
“Recent increases in hospital admissions and test positivity are concerning new developments and we don’t want to go down the same path we’ve seen before and experience a resurgence in the pandemic, which is why Governor Pritzker directed us to use all our resources to halt these upticks,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement.
Illinois has seen 10 days of increases in the seven-day rolling average for hospital admissions since March 8, IDPH said, and the COVID-19 test positivity was 3.3% as of Friday - up from 2.5% on March 10.
"While these rates are certainly significantly lower than the peak, they represent a potential early warning sign about a possible resurgence," IDPH said.
Chicago officials on Thursday said the city's coronavirus metrics have also shown "worrying increases" in recent weeks, noting that "most alarmingly," the daily number of new COVID cases in the city has risen into the "high risk" category due to five straight days of increases.
IDPH on Friday noted that Chicago's daily case rate has increased by nearly 50% since last week, along with six days of increases in test positivity, while suburban Cook County has seen its daily case rate increase more than 40%, along with nine days of increasing hospital bed usage.
“We cannot move forward if our metrics are going backward," Ezike said . "The vaccine will help get us to the end of the pandemic, but we need to continue to reduce spread of the virus by wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds, keeping six feet of distance, getting tested after seeing others, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced last week that all Illinois residents over the age of 16 will be eligible to get vaccinated beginning on April 12.
Here's a look at the full schedule of vaccine eligibility:
|December 15, 2020||Healthcare workers and long-term care facility staff and residents|
|January 25, 2021||Frontline essential workers (including first responders, K-12 teachers and other public-facing industries) and residents age 65 and up|
|February 25, 2021||Residents with high-risk conditions or disabilities, age 16 and up|
|March 22, 2021||Higher education staff, government workers, and media|
|March 29, 2021||Restaurant staff, construction trade workers, and religious leaders|
|April 12, 2021||Any resident age 16 and up|
All vaccinations remain by appointment only, officials said, noting that "making an appointment to receive a shot may take time." Newly eligible workers can make appointments at "the more than 900 location in the state’s provider network," Pritzker said.
For a complete look at where and how you can make an appointment in Illinois or where you can receive vaccine information for your area, click here.