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Pritzker pushes COVID booster shots for eligible residents

The governor also expressed hope to remove some coronavirus mitigations, like the indoor mask mandate, “as we approach the holidays.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a daily briefing in March 2020.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday encouraged state residents eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to get one.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday encouraged state residents eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to get one, allowing Illinoisans to be “even more protected than you are today” and expressed hope for removing mitigations like the mask mandate “as we approach the holidays.”

“I want to remind everyone, we all take booster shots already for the flu, for the whooping cough, for tetanus,” Pritzker said. “For COVID-19, it’s no different ... parents watching their own children survive to adulthood grandparents meeting great grandkids — that isn’t happenstance, that’s health care and vaccines have been part of the reason why we have achieved greater longevity.”

Pritzker urged skilled nursing facilities to make booster shots available to all residents and staff before Thanksgiving. The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is also preparing to provide booster shots to residents at state-run veteran’s homes.

The governor also said he’d like to remove COVID-19 mitigations, like the mask mandate he reinstated in August, “as we approach the holidays,” but keeping people safe and following the CDC’s guidelines are a top priority.

“That’s an important marker for us,” Pritzker said on the topic of coronavirus mitigations. “We want to make sure these numbers keep going down. ... We have three holidays coming up, but especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, where people spend extended amounts of time together. So, we’d like very much to get to a place where we can remove certain mask mandates.”

The highly infectious Delta variant caused a spike in cases statewide in August, resulting in the reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate. The number of new daily cases has declined recently with the state seeing an average of 2,176 COVID-19 cases over the past seven days.

On Monday, the state reported 1,327 new COVID cases, the lowest daily case count since July 26. The state’s positivity rate is a little over 2%.

Pritzker stumped for vaccines and boosters on Tuesday, calling the shots “life saving,” especially for those 65 or older. Unvaccinated seniors are 29 times more likely to end up in the hospital and boosters will “extend that life-saving protection,” the governor said.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, booster shots are available to people who are 65 or older; 18 or older living in long-term care settings; have underlying medical conditions; or live or work in high-risk settings.

The governor said by the end of the week the country will have official and formal recommendations from the CDC on who should get booster shots for each of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. So far, only Pfizer has been approved for booster doses.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said she expects the CDC to move forward with the Federal Drug Administration’s recommendation about boosters for Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “in just the next few days.”

Ezike said the state’s Public Health Department is working on additional training for vaccine providers on boosters and vaccinating children under age 12.