Illinois' very first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine will be dedicated to health care workers in the 50 counties with the highest death rates per capita, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday.
Many states reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths Friday, which marked the deadline for states to submit requests for doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Plans for the vaccine are being rolled out as the surging pandemic swamps U.S. hospitals and leaves nurses and other medical workers shorthanded and burned out.
In line with recommendations from health officials, Pritzker said that Illinois' initial focus will be on the state's 655,000 front line health care workers and 110,000 adults who live in congregate settings, like long-term care facilities and assisted living residences.
However, he stressed, it will take multiple weeks for health care workers to get their first two doses of the vaccine.
"...This will not be a quick process," Pritzker said. "With the two-dose timeline, no single person will even be fully vaccinated by Christmas, and it will likely be months before people with low risk factors for COVID-19 see their first dose."
Major cities, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, the governor stated, will each receive a separate, direct supply of the vaccine.
In addition to a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, states including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York and Michigan, have established independent review panels.
Pfizer is still seeking emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The pharmaceutical giant completed its phase three trial and found the vaccine to be 95% percent.
If the Pfizer vaccine receives federal approval on Dec. 10, Pritzker said, Illinois is slated to get 109,000 doses of the vaccine "sometime during the week after next." Of the 109,000 doses, 23,000 would be directly allocated to the city of Chicago.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, revealed that Illinois leaders were told the state would initially receive approximately 400,000 doses of the vaccine, but the number was reduced to 109,000.
The first shipment of vaccines, Ezike said, will be received directly by the IDPH and then sent to the 50 counties with the highest death rates per capita.
The doses will be transported to the state's 10 regional hospital coordination centers, which will serve as distribution sites for local health departments.
As part of a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens, the pharmacies will directly vaccinate residents at long term care facilities statewide.
While Illinois and the country await the vaccine, on Friday, Ezike reiterated her pleas for Illinoisans to wash their hands, social distance and wear facial coverings.
"Each day that passes brings us closer to getting back to our normal," the doctor said. "That's kind of cliché. Of course, that's the truth. But that day will come sooner as we continue to maintain our mitigation efforts."