CHICAGO — As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the state, Gov. JB Pritzker had a message for Chicagoans feeling confused or left out of the city’s vaccine rollout process: Come on out to the suburbs.
Everyone 16 and older will be eligible for a vaccine in the state starting Monday, Pritzker said. All counties, including suburban Cook, are on this schedule — except Chicago, which gets a separate allocation of doses from the federal government. While Pritzker said the city has its own prioritization process, the Illinois Department of Public Health — along with most other health departments across the country — see the immediate need to open up vaccine eligibility.
“We’re at a point where the [coronavirus] variants are rising,” he said. “They’re coming at the population so fast at every age. … We now need to get as many shots into arms as quickly as we possibly can. … Right now, we just want people to show up and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
President Joe Biden said Tuesday he’d order states and major cities to make all adults eligible for vaccines by April 19. During a news conference later in the day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago will meet that deadline — so long as it’s provided with enough doses. The city previously hadn’t planned to open eligibility to all adults until May 31.
Pritzker said the state is expecting 150,000 first doses of vaccine next week from the federal government to arrive in suburban Cook County and the collar counties. These shots will be available at the state’s mass vaccination sites, as well as pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Jewel-Osco. And while all Chicagoans 16 and older won’t be eligible at city clinics until April 19, Pritzker said city residents are “more than welcome” to venture out to state-run facilities.
“I want to make sure people in Chicago know they are welcome to sign up for our mass vaccination sites,” he said, adding that doses for everyone may not be available the very first week, but more are coming rapidly and the state is on track to break a single day vaccine record.
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said she too would like to open vaccine eligibility to everyone, but supply has been an issue. She said Thursday people who are able to make it out to vaccination sites in the suburbs or downstate — or even Indiana — should do so. That way, more vaccine supply is available for those in the city who cannot travel.
As of Thursday, about 6.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given, 73 percent of Illinois seniors have had at least one dose and 25 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.
The vaccinations — provided for free, regardless of a person’s insurance — are the best hope for ending the COVID-19 pandemic, officials have said.
At the same time, cases of coronavirus are surging in Chicago and across Illinois. The city is seeing nearly 600 new cases per day, and its positivity rate has risen to 5.1 percent — a sign the virus is spreading unchecked.
Most new cases are being seen in people 18-39 years old.
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