Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will expand to all Illinois residents over the age of 16 outside of Chicago in April, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday.
Here's a look at what we know about the expansion and the questions that remain:
Who is currently eligible for the COVID vaccine in Illinois?
Illinois entered what's called Phase 1B Plus of its vaccine rollout plan late last month, expanding eligibility to individuals with certain high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities.
That's in addition to the already-eligible health care workers and long-term care facility staff and residents who qualified in Phase 1A, plus the frontline essential workers as well as all residents age 65 and older who became eligible in the earlier iteration of Phase 1B.
But when Illinois entered Phase 1B Plus, several local health departments, hospital systems and Chicago-area counties said they would not expand alongside the state due to low supply. That included Chicago and suburban Cook County, among others, which remain in Phase 1B.
For a full look at who's eligible to get vaccinated in Phase 1B Plus, as well as which jurisdictions did not expand past Phase 1B, click here.
When will COVID vaccine eligibility expand in Illinois?
Pritzker announced Thursday that all Illinois residents over the age of 16 outside of the city of Chicago will become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on April 12.
"At that date, all state-supported mass vaccination sites, local health departments, pharmacy partners – in short, every jurisdiction that receives vaccine from the State of Illinois’ allocation – will be instructed to move to widespread eligibility," Pritzker's office said in a statement.
Who will become eligible on April 12?
Illinois health officials say all residents of the state over the age of 16 will become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but that will not include residents of the city of Chicago.
Will anyone else become eligible for the COVID vaccine before April 12?
Chicago will enter Phase 1C of COVID vaccinations on March 29, expanding eligibility to more essential workers like servers, bartenders, hair stylists and more, along with residents who have underlying health conditions.
For a breakdown of everything we know about Phase 1C in Chicago, click here.
Suburban Cook County will expand vaccine eligibility to Phase 1B Plus beginning Monday, opening up appointments to residents with the same qualifying high-risks medical conditions as the state.
Pritzker said Thursday that there "may be" certain populations that the state will allow to become eligible separately ahead of April 12, saying there would be more information to come.
"We're looking at allowing specific groups from now until then," Pritzker said. "An example of that might be state employees, it might be certain... vulnerable essential workers that haven't been included in those announced groups already."
"Three-and-a-half weeks in the world of vaccinations, just to be clear, is like a lifetime," he continued. "And so we have an opportunity here to expand and focus on pods, people that we think are most vulnerable and should try to get vaccinated before we move into the full-blown population."
If I will be eligible on April 12, can I book a vaccine appointment now?
"Illinoisans who are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine cannot schedule an appointment for a future date," Pritzker's office said in a statement announcing the expansion, adding, "Residents are encouraged to be patient in the days and weeks following April 12 as vaccination appointments may be limited."
What happened to Phase 1C in Illinois?
Pritzker said Thursday that there "has never been an announced Phase 1C for the state" but he has referenced a potential Phase 1C on multiple occasions. Most recently, he said on Monday that there weren't "announcements yet about what 1C would look like," noting only that the state would open up to everyone sooner than he thought people expected.
The state's vaccination plan on the Illinois Department of Public Health's website has for months listed a draft Phase 1C framework based on federal recommendations. Those draft guidelines included roughly 1.5 million essential workers in a potential Phase 1C who were not already eligible in previous phases, in fields like food service, construction, finance, energy, media, public safety and more.
Now, excluding any yet-to-be-announced populations that may become eligible separately ahead of the April 12 expansion, those essential workers will become eligible at the same time as the roughly 900,000 other Illinois residents previously slated for Phase 2.
Why is Chicago not included in the expansion?
Chicago receives its supply of vaccine from the federal government allocated separately from the state. As such, Chicago operates on its own framework and timetable and will not open vaccinations to all city residents on April 12.
"While we are hopeful that we can expand eligibility to include all residents relatively soon, the ability to do so will depend on vaccine supply," a spokeswoman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement Thursday. "We have established a comprehensive and efficient vaccine distribution system and will be ready when vaccine supply increases, and if that happens sooner than expected it's possible we could adjust our timeline. For now, we will continue to prioritize essential workers and seniors, and we look forward to moving to Phase 1C in a week and a half."
Pritzker acknowledged Thursday that the city operates independently of the state but said he hoped Chicago officials would expand quickly.
"Look, the city of Chicago gets separate shipments from the federal government separate from the rest of the state," he said. "It represents 21% of the population of the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago does, and it can make decisions on its own; it has the ability to do that."
"I hope that it will move expeditiously toward opening up even more. That's what we're doing across the rest of the state of Illinois. And I think that it will be hard for the city if people… who live just beyond the city borders are able to get an appointment to go get vaccinated, but people who are within the city may not be able to because they haven't opened that up," he continued.
Who is currently eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago?
As of Thursday, only people in Phase 1A and Phase 1B are eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago. Phase 1A includes health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff, while Phase 1B includes certain frontline essential workers as well as all Chicago residents age 65 and older.
The city will move to Phase 1C at the end March, expanding eligibility to more essential workers and Chicago residents with certain qualifying health conditions, though those conditions will differ from the state's guidelines.
When will Chicago increase eligibility?
Chicago will enter Phase 1C of COVID vaccinations on March 29, expanding eligibility to all remaining essential workers and residents who have qualifying underlying health conditions.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live broadcast Thursday morning that the city "will for sure expand to everyone" by May 1, which is the date by when President Joe Biden said last week he would direct all jurisdictions to make the vaccine available to all adults.
Arwady did not offer a specific date for when the city will fully expand vaccinations. Chicago officials had previously estimated that the city would enter Phase 2, which opens eligibility to all Chicagoans age 16 and older, on May 31, though that timeline would put the city behind both the state and Biden's deadline of May 1.
Is Illinois ready to expand eligibility to all adults?
Pritzker said Thursday that he believed the software systems used by the state and local public health departments would be ready for the expansion and added that Illinois officials have encouraged all 97 health departments across the state to open appointments "as soon as they know that they have the supply coming, which so far the federal government has guaranteed a minimum and they've met it every time."
Pritzker's office said the federal government delivered than 800,000 doses to providers and agencies across the state this week, nearly eight times the 109,000 doses Illinois received in its first shipment in December. His office said that projections indicated the state would begin to receive more than a million doses a week in April.
But officials noted that all vaccinations in the state will remain by appointment only, adding that "making an appointment to receive a shot may take time."
How many vaccinations has Illinois done so far?
Illinois officials said Thursday that the state has administered more than 4.3 million doses of the three available COVID-19 vaccines since vaccinations began in December, currently averaging about 100,000 doses per day as supply has increased.
Note: For COVID-19, the herd-immunity threshold is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent. Our analysis considers herd immunity reached at 75% of the population fully vaccinated based on estimates by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Where can I find a vaccine appointment in Illinois?
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.