Frustration is growing among some Illinois residents who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but are struggling to get an appointment as health officials urge patience, warning that supply is low.
Severe winter weather has delayed vaccine shipments and distribution across the country this week. More than a foot of snow blanketed parts of the Chicago area Monday into Tuesday, hampering deliveries to the city and across Illinois.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said Tuesday that "the federal government has notified all states of COVID-19 vaccine delivery delays across the entire country due to adverse weather and road conditions," warning that delays could continue throughout the week.
"To help offset delayed vaccine deliveries, the state of Illinois proactively ordered vaccine to be delivered to its Strategic National Stockpile Receipt, Store, and Stage site in anticipation of adverse weather," Pritzker's office said in a release. "Illinois is distributing that vaccine to many providers around the state today and tomorrow, as weather permits, to continue to support vaccination operations."
Testing and vaccination sites in Chicago and Cook County were closed on Tuesday, with city officials saying more than 100 providers were left without their expected shipments.
"The inclement weather in the Midwest has also led to a delay of vaccine shipments coming into Chicago over the upcoming days," the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a release. "While there is currently no estimated time of arrival on the orders, we anticipate daily updates from CDC. All COVID shipments are requested as overnight shipping so we expect vaccine shipments and supply with catch up quickly."
Officials noted that deliveries from Chicago's allocation to vaccine providers were delayed due to the travel impacts from the storm, urging anyone with appointments at private healthcare centers to contact their providers and check on the status of their appointments.
CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city usually receives its weekly shipments on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But with Monday being a federal holiday, followed by a dangerous winter snowstorm, "we didn't get the vaccine we were expected."
"There's more than 100 providers that didn't get their vaccine like we were hoping today," Arwady said in a Facebook Live video Tuesday. "We just need to wait for that vaccine to get here."
In suburban DuPage County, health officials said Wednesday that over the next three weeks there will be a large reduction in the number of vaccine doses available, as they expect to receive just 2,450 doses each week instead of the 14,000 they've received weekly since December.
While state and local officials have repeatedly urged patience with the vaccine rollout since it began in December, some Illinois residents are growing more frustrated.
Karen Lindquist said she's been trying to get an appointment for her mother, who was initially scheduled to get her vaccine at her independent living facility in Arlington Heights before CVS ending up postponing the appointments. That forced her to spend hours trying to secure an appointment elsewhere.
"I’m relentless when it’s something especially when it comes to my mother, but it shouldn’t be that hard," Lindquist said.
Illinois is currently in Phase 1B of vaccinations, open to people age 65 years and older as well as "frontline essential workers," which includes first responders, education workers like teachers and support staff, childcare workers, grocery store employees, postal service workers and more.
Beginning Feb. 25, the state plans to increase eligibility for Phase 1B to include people with certain underlying conditions and comorbidities, like cancer, diabetes, obesity and others. However, Chicago and Cook County announced earlier this month they would not join the rest of the state in expanding eligibility, citing low vaccine supply.
Last week, the Cook County Health mass vaccination site at Triton College said there was a shortage in supply. School secretary Lynn Marnstein was able to reschedule an appointment but was frustrated she and her 78-year-old mother could not get the shots after showing up to Triton College as scheduled.
"If they ran out, they could have notified us before we went out there and how could they run out? They knew who was coming," Marnstein said.