Chicago residents won't be included when Illinois opens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to anyone age 16 and older next month. Why won't the city expand eligibility alongside the rest of the state? Here's a look at what officials said Thursday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the expansion Thursday, saying that on April 12, "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."
Chicago receives its supply of vaccine from the federal government allocated separately from the state. As such, the city operates on its own framework and timetable.
Chicago officials announced Wednesday that the city will enter Phase 1C of COVID vaccinations on March 29, expanding eligibility to all remaining essential workers like servers, bartenders, hair stylists and more, along with residents who have qualifying underlying health conditions.
For a look at everything we know about Chicago's Phase 1C, click here.
"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."
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 that 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.
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.
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 residents age 65 and older who became eligible in the earlier iteration of Phase 1B.
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.