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Chicago Should Increase Vaccine Eligibility Like The Rest Of Illinois Or It’ll Be ‘Hard’ For City, Pritzker Says

Illinois will expand vaccine eligibility to all adults by April 12 — but Chicago has its own campaign, and it's been opening eligibility slower.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor J.B. Pritzker look on as Dr. Emily Landon (not pictured) of the University of Chicago Medicine speaks at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Illinois will soon up coronavirus vaccinations to everyone 16 and older — and it’ll be “hard” for Chicago if the city doesn’t do the same, Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday the state will make every Illinoisan 16 and older eligible for coronavirus vaccinations in mid-April. The eligibility change won’t apply to Chicago, which has its own vaccination plan and gets a separate allocation of doses from the federal government.

But Pritzker said he hopes Chicago will follow the state’s lead on expanding eligibility soon and reopening as the rest of Illinois does.

“The city of Chicago gets separate shipments from the federal government, separate from the rest of the state,” Pritzker said. “It represents 21 percent of the population of the state of Illinois … . And it can make decisions on its own; it has the ability to do that.

“I hope it will move expeditiously toward opening up even more. That’s what we’re doing across the rest of the state of Illinois.”

The city and state were originally in line with each other when it came to vaccination phases, starting 1A and then 1B together. But Illinois broke from Chicago and started vaccinating people with underlying conditions on Feb. 25.

The city said it wasn’t getting enough doses to expand eligibility to people with underlying conditions at that point — and that a significant chunk of its doses were going to suburbanites.

The difference between Illinois’ and Chicago’s rules have created confusion for many people who are wondering where they can get a shot and if they qualify.

And it appears the city and state won’t align for at least several weeks more, as just Wednesday Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago won’t move into Phase 1C — when essential workers and people with underlying conditions can get vaccinated — until March 29. During 1C, many but not all adults will be eligible, officials said.

City officials hope to open eligibility to all adults before May 1 — the date President Joe Biden has said they must do so — but it’s not yet certain when that will happen.

On the other hand, Illinois’ eligibility will expand to all people 16 and older by April 12.

“I think that it will be hard for the city if people who can get vaccinated who live just beyond the city borders are able to get an appointment to go get vaccinated but people who are within the city may not be able to because they haven’t opened that up,” Pritzker said. “But again, I think that’s up to them.

“… The city this morning acknowledged that they’re hoping to not only get there by May 1 but even earlier than that. It will match up at some point between April 12 and May 1. The city of Chicago will move.”

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, previously said she’s pushing for the state to send more doses to Chicago and the surrounding area since 35-40 percent of the city’s doses have gone to non-residents. She said rural areas in the state are currently more vaccinated than parts of Chicago.

In comparison, about 21 percent of Chicago residents who have been vaccinated got their shot outside the city.

Come March 29, the city will no longer vaccinate non-Chicagoans at its city-run sites.

RELATED: Here’s How You Can Get Vaccinated Against Coronavirus In Chicago

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