The first coronavirus vaccination in Illinois outside of Chicago was administered Tuesday at a hospital in Peoria with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state's top health official observing.
Health care workers at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, located at 1306 North Berkeley Avenue in Peoria were the first in the state's jurisdiction to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike were present to observe the vaccinations, calling it a "very important day."
"Everyone has reason to be excited that we are at the beginning of the end," Ezike said.
She noted, however, that the first vaccines are only the start.
"It's very important that everyone understands you do need both vaccines," she said, referring to the booster dose people will need to get in the weeks after their first shot.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots given three weeks apart.
"It's an important step but there's still another step," she added. "I hope that all the people who are watching this have confidence that this is a vaccine that you should take as well."
In Chicago, the first doses were given to health care workers at Loretto Hospital just minutes earlier.
Dubbing the day "Vaccine Day," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said "we have finally and at long last officially taken our first steps in our long road toward COVID vaccination."
Chicago's top doctor called it "the beginning of what will be the end of COVID-19 in Chicago."
Hospitals in Chicago and across Illinois have been preparing to receive and administer the first doses to health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of Pfizer's vaccine last week.
The first shipment of Pfizer's vaccine arrived in Illinois on Monday, with thousands of doses now being processed to go to hospitals across the state, Pritzker said.
"I'm proud to report that Illinois’ first vaccine doses have arrived safely and are now being processed to go to our hospitals," Pritzker tweeted just after 1 p.m. on Monday "I was elated to witness our first shipment arrive at the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile and have great appreciation to those who made it possible."
Pritzker's office said the first shipment, delivered to the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile, contained approximately 43,000 doses of the vaccine.
Illinois officials said Chicago received a shipment from the federal government on Monday as well, one of five local health departments to receive direct shipments independent of the state.
The four others include: Cook County Department of Public Health, Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center, Madison County Health Department, and St. Clair County Health Department.
The rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved by the FDA, ushers in the biggest vaccination effort in U.S. history — one that health officials hope the American public will embrace, even as some have voiced initial skepticism or worry. Shots were given to health care workers and nursing home residents in the U.S. beginning Monday.
Earlier this month, Pritzker and Illinois health officials detailed the state's vaccination plan, noting it follows federal guidelines in distributing it to health care professionals and nursing home residents first in accordance with federal public health guidance.
“The very first vaccinations will be dedicated to hospitals and health care workers in the 50 counties with the highest death rates per capita,” Pritzker said on Dec. 4 during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago. “Some quick math will tell you that it’s going to take multiple weeks of distribution to even get our health care workers their first of the two doses that they require, while also getting to the long-term care facility residents.”
According to Pritzker, each county has put together its own plan for how the vaccine will be distributed, with the governor pointed out that cities like Chicago and more rural communities will have different strategies in place to ensure that the vaccine is distributed as equitably as possible.
Illinois' public health director said Friday all of the state's 10 "regional hub" hospitals will receive doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to distribute in week one.
Once the doses have been received, Ezike said that the state will pull out all the stops in an “All-In Illinois” effort to make sure that the vaccine is administered as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“People will go to their doctor’s offices. Mass vaccination drives will be held. Some in churches, pharmacies, local health departments,” she said. “There will be myriad opportunities to get the vaccine. We want some drive-thru vaccination efforts too. Those will continue to ramp up as it becomes widely available to the public.”
In Chicago, first in line will be "health care workers who treat COVID patients or conduct procedures that put them at high risk for COVID-19 spread" at all 34 hospitals in Chicago, Lightfoot and Arwady said last week.
Chicago health officials said there are roughly 400,000 health care workers in the city, including doctors, nurses and other hospital staff.
After frontline health care workers, the city says priority will be given to: residents and staff at long-term care facilities, workers in essential and critical industries including emergency services personnel, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions and people ages 65 and older.