COVID vaccine

Illinois Could Increase Vaccine Eligibility for All Adults Before May 1, Pritzker Says

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Pritzker said he feels "confident" in vaccine supply moving forward

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After President Joe Biden announced plans to direct U.S. states to make all adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state could reach that phase even earlier.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Pritzker said he feels "confident" in vaccine supply moving forward.

"I've been pleased... I don't know if you noticed that there was supposed to be a hiatus in the Johnson and Johnson deliveries, but actually we've seen more Johnson and Johnson deliveries so I'm excited about the fact that we'll be able to get to more and more people across the state of Illinois," Pritzker said. "And I'm confident that not just by May 1 but maybe even a little bit earlier we could open up to everyone in the state, everyone that's eligible."

Both the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago on Friday said that President Joe Biden's deadline is dependent on supply.

Biden made the announcement in a primetime address Thursday evening, saying he would direct all states to make all adults ages 18 and up eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine by May 1.

In response, Pritzker - who has long assailed former President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic and praised Biden's actions since taking office in January - said Friday that the state "has built the infrastructure to administer far more doses" than it's currently receiving.

"The Biden administration has delivered on their promises and provided states the stability we need to plan," Pritzker said in a statement. "The state of Illinois has relied on their estimates to project the availability of vaccine and has built the infrastructure to administer far more doses than we’re currently receiving to prepare for this moment."

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 full look at who's eligible to get vaccinated in Phase 1B Plus, click here.

But when the state entered Phase 1B Plus, several jurisdictions, including the city of Chicago, suburban Cook County and several other counties in the area, announced that they would not expand eligibility along with the rest of Illinois, citing low vaccine supply.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health - which receives vaccine shipments from the federal government allocated separately from the state - said that low supply is "the one thing holding us back from more fully vaccinating the city."

"We were excited to hear the president’s ambitious plan to push up the time-line for vaccinating the nation and will be ready for whenever more vaccine makes it to Chicago," CDPH said in a statement. "As we have said all along, the one thing holding us back from more fully vaccinating the city is the very limited supply of vaccine. We have established an efficient system to quickly distribute the vaccine to providers and get doses into arms. As of today, we have close to 600 providers enrolled to help administer vaccine to Chicagoans and will be prepared for when the supply increases."

Chicago health officials previously announced that the city had targeted an estimated start date for the next phase, Phase 1C, to begin on March 29. Phase 1C includes all other essential workers not already eligible as well as Chicagoans over the age of 16 with underlying medical conditions.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said last week that the city may begin vaccinating those eligible in Phase 1C at an earlier date based on an increase of available COVID vaccine doses.

The city's plan then has an estimated start date for Phase 2, which opens up vaccinations to all Chicagoans age 16 and older, on May 31 - nearly a month after Biden's deadline.

For Illinois, Pritzker said last week that an estimated start date for the state's Phase 1C was not yet available, saying the state is still working to vaccinate residents currently eligible in Phase 1B Plus.

"I don't have a date for you yet again because we're trying to get through we have millions of people still in 1B Plus, 1B and 1A that have not been vaccinated," Pritzker said last week. "But we want to make sure that we get to a certain level, you know, probably beyond 50% in each of the categories that's allowed before we start to open it up to another category."

Details on the state's Phase 1C eligibility have not been released, with the Illinois Department of Public Health's website saying only that possible groups could include "other essential workers" like those in food service, finance, media, public safety and more.

The state has also not released parameters or a timeline to enter Phase 2, saying only that it "is possible" that it would include the rest of the state's population ages 16 and up.

Though Illinois has yet to announce any estimated dates for future vaccine phases, Pritzker has said he's "anxious" to get to subsequent phases.

"I'm anxious, I think like we all are, to get to Phase 1C and beyond," Pritzker said late last month. "We want to get everybody vaccinated as soon as possible but we're trying to get to all of the most vulnerable populations first."

Pritzker acknowledged Friday that neighboring Midwest states have "expanded eligibility in different ways, with Michigan expected to open up to everyone "very shortly."

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.

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