As Illinois announces plans to expand who is eligible for coronavirus vaccinations in Phase 1B later this month, Chicago may not be joining in.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said as of Wednesday the city had only received enough vaccine to give doses to 5-10% of those currently eligible.
"The reason why we've looked really toward the end of March is based on where we expect us to actually have more vaccine," Arwady said. "I think it would be very appropriate, if there are parts of the state, for example, that maybe are already through their 1B - they've gotten all their folks over 65, they've gotten their essential workers - if there's anywhere in the state that has vaccine appointments going unfilled, of course that would be appropriate to move ahead. But here in Chicago, if we add additional people right now to 1B, all we do is make it harder for the people who are already eligible to get that vaccine, and it would make it harder for us to get it to the people over 65, that would make it harder for us to get it into the hardest hit communities because it just dilutes the amount that's available."
Arwady said the city plans to discuss the move with state officials to see when additional doses could be released before making a decision.
"If they have gotten some assurance that there will be additional vaccine and they could could direct it towards Chicago, that would be very helpful in terms of us being able to more quickly move ahead," Arwady said. "So I think more to come there, but I want to be really careful about not opening up the number of people eligible for vaccine when I don't have anywhere near enough vaccine."
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.
The state expects to increase eligibility beginning Feb. 25, allowing for people with "a high-risk medical condition" or comorbidity to be vaccinated. The list includes those with cancer, diabetes, obesity, women who are pregnant, and those with several other conditions.
"In light of a steadily increasing federal vaccine supply, Illinois is making plans to expand Phase 1B eligibility on February 25 to people who have comorbidities and underlying conditions as defined by the CDC," the governor's office said in a release. "In addition, Illinois will also prioritize individuals with disabilities."
“Those who are under 65 and live with comorbidities, such as cancer survivors or those living with heart disease, have an elevated risk of serious complications or death if they contract COVID-19," Pritzker said in a statement. "Illinois is moving forward in accordance with guidance from the CDC to expand our eligible population as supply allows, getting us closer to the point when the vaccine is widely available to all who want it. In the meantime, I encourage all Illinoisans to wear our masks and follow the mitigations so that more of our neighbors are healthy and alive when it’s their turn in the vaccination line.”
The expansion applies to those 16 and older who weren't otherwise covered in previous eligibility categories, the state said, adding that it plans to work with local health departments and other providers as eligibility increases. (Here's a full list of who is eligible)
Already, more than 3.2 million Illinois residents are eligible for vaccinations under Phase 1B, which includes people age 65 years and older as well as "frontline essential workers."
Despite repeated claims the state was struggling to vaccinate those in Phase 1B due to limited supply, Pritzker touted a 5% increase in doses this week alone, saying "as quickly as we receive enough vaccine supply, we need to waste no time in protecting a broader section of our most vulnerable population."
Still, even as Illinois announced more than 100 new vaccination locations in the last week, officials continued to urge patience Wednesday, saying vaccine supply was limited.
"We are limited by the amount of vaccine available and allocated by the federal government," the governor's office said in a release just before Pritzker's announcement on eligibility. "Vaccinations are available only by appointment at this time and we encourage people to check back frequently for open appointments. Until the supply is increased, there will be a great demand and we ask people to be patient."