The doctor and nurses who cared for the very first identified COVID-19 patient in Illinois at the beginning of the pandemic were vaccinated against the coronavirus on Friday.
The vaccinations took place at 6:30 a.m. at AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center, the health care system said. Those who received the vaccine were infection disease specialist Dr. Lynwood Jones, who oversaw the first patient's treatment plans, as well as two nurses: Claire Antemann, who initially suspected the patient may have COVID-19, and Alyssa Miller, who assisted in caring for the patient.
“Last year we had a few patients here but now we have over 300-thousand deaths,” Lynwood said. So it’s a somber moment also it's a joy getting the vaccine.”
That first patient tested positive for coronavirus on Jan. 24 at AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center Hoffman Estates, becoming the first case to be identified in Illinois and the second in the U.S. That woman's spouse later became the first known person-to-person transmission of the virus in the nation.
“I mean back then we didn't have a lot of information it was very scary for the frontline workers as well as the general public,” said Antemann.
"The physicians, nurses, infection control specialists and other caregivers scrambled with the help of the CDC and IDPH to care for the patient and later her spouse," a statement from the hospital says. "Now, nearly a year later, these same caregivers are rolling up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccination so they can continue to practice what they’ve learned in treating COVID-19 positive patients."
Hospitals across the Chicago area, in Illinois and around the U.S. have been preparing to inoculate health care workers with Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use last week. The first doses of the vaccine were sent around the country beginning on Sunday, with shipments arriving at hospitals at staggered times throughout this week. The first vaccinations in the nation took place beginning Monday.
The first shipment of Pfizer's vaccine arrived in Illinois on Monday, with thousands of doses then processed to go to hospitals across the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
Pritzker's office said the first shipment, delivered to the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile, contained approximately 43,000 doses of the vaccine.
Chicago is slated to receive roughly 23,000 doses of the vaccine in the coming days, with more scheduled to arrive after the first wave. Those doses are part of the approximately 109,000 allotted to Illinois in the first round of shipments.
Pritzker said Wednesday that state and local health officials are preparing for smaller shipments of the coronavirus vaccine than previously anticipated in coming weeks, as federal officials have informed states that the original shipments of the treatment will be roughly cut in half.
Originally, an estimated 8.8 million coronavirus vaccine doses were set to be delivered to cities and states across the U.S., but that estimate has been cut in half for each of the next two weeks, Pritzker said.
“Per the direction of Operation Warp Speed’s General Perna, that estimate was tightened significantly down to 4.3 million doses shipped nationally next week. The following week, originally projected for another 8.8 million, is also now also scheduled to be 4.3 million,” Pritzker said.
As a result, the governor says that the move to cut the shipments in half will likely mean that the state and the city of Chicago will also see their own shipments halved as they begin the process of inoculating health care workers.
Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, say that the shipments of the vaccine will continue, but cautioned that projections on how much of the vaccine that the state can anticipate receiving will continue to fluctuate based on the latest information from the federal government.
As for questions about whether the distribution of the vaccine is on schedule, Pritzker emphasized that the state has worked with the Illinois Hospital Association and other groups on a schedule for the vaccine to be delivered to various areas, but that the four counties in the state that have already received the vaccine were shipped that treatment directly by the federal government.
“(The rollout) has been done in coordination with the Illinois Hospital Association and the local public health departments working with their hospitals,” Pritzker said. “The schedule has been set for some time now, and the deliveries have ensued.”
Ezike said that the vaccine is expected to be delivered to long-term care facilities for administration beginning on Dec. 28. Those vaccines will be administered through a partnership between Walgreens and CVS and the federal government.
Ezike did warn that decreased allocations could impact the rollout to skilled nursing facilities, but said that it is unclear at this time whether that impact will take place.
The first vaccinations in Chicago and in Illinois under the state's jurisdiction took place on Tuesday. Chicago administered the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine to five health care workers in what city officials touted as an "historic" moment at Loretto Hospital on the city's West Side.
The first doses to be administered outside of Chicago were given in Peoria, with Pritzker and Ezike witnessing the event that the governor called "a beginning" for the state.
Chicago and Illinois health officials have long said they would follow federal public health guidelines to first vaccinate health care workers on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic.