CHICAGO — The state will start vaccinating people with underlying conditions Thursday.
Gov. JB Pritzker said Illinois still plans to expand eligibility to people who have co-morbidities starting Thursday. Chicago — which has its own vaccination campaign — will not follow suit, nor will suburban Cook County.
Pritzker previously acknowledged Illinois is facing a “massive” shortage of doses, but he said the state is expanding eligibility under Phase 1B because it’s getting more doses from the federal government and officials want to ensure people at high risk from COVID-19 can be vaccinated.
Officials hope the move will help increase vaccinations among people of color, who are more likely to have underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease that put them at increased risk form COVID-19. Those populations have received fewer vaccinations statewide, despite facing a disproportionate number of deaths from and cases of COVID-19.
“These are the most vulnerable people, really, with co-morbidities,” Pritzker said at a news conference Wednesday. “They’re the most vulnerable populations of color, communities that otherwise are suffering the most from cases and hospitalizations and deaths. And so, we want to make sure to cover those communities as quickly as we possibly can.”
Not all local health departments will follow the state’s example and expand eligibility, though “most” will, Pritzker said.
Chicago and Cook County leaders have said they’ll hold off because making more people eligible for vaccinations now would make it ever harder for older people to obtain appointments since vaccine supply is still so limited.
“We’re all struggling, all across the country, with the supply that comes into our states; and, unfortunately, no one is getting enough supply …,” Pritzker said. “Right now, what we’re doing is making sure that the most vulnerable people in those communities have access to the vaccine anywhere and everywhere they can.”
Previously, only health care workers, frontline workers and people 65 and older were going to be eligible for Phase 1B vaccinations. People with underlying conditions were going to have to wait for Phase 1C. But Pritzker said Illinois will move into “Phase 1B+” as it expands eligibility to people with co-morbidities.
Only people 16 and older will be able to get vaccinated still.
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD
- Heart conditions
- Immunocompromised state from a solid organ transplant
- Pulmonary diseases
- Sickle cell disease
People who want to find vaccination sites that are accepting appointments from people with those conditions can look online.
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