10% of Illinoisans have gotten COVID vaccine — but Black and Brown communities already falling behind

Well over 1.6 million total shots have been doled out over the past two months, officials said. Almost two-thirds of them have gone to white recipients, new data shows.

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A pharmacist administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente Community Academy Thursday in Ukrainian Village.

A pharmacist administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente Community Academy Thursday in Ukrainian Village.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A tenth of all Illinois residents have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose following a record-breaking day for shots administered statewide, public officials announced Friday.

But new data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health shows a higher percentage of shots have gone to whites, leaving behind the Black and Brown communities who have suffered a disproportionate brunt of the pandemic.

A total of 95,375 doses went into arms Thursday, shattering the previous daily high of about 75,000 set a week ago, officials said.

Well over 1.6 million shots have now been doled out over the past two months, meaning about 10% of the state population have received their first dose, officials said.

Still, only 374,722 of Illinois’ 12.7 million residents have received both required doses — not even 3% of the state. Officials are aiming to immunize at least 80% of residents, a process that will take months.

The record-breaking count ratchets up the state’s unprecedented vaccination effort, raising the rolling average of shots administered per day up to 59,009 over the past week.

“Illinois has now further solidified its position as the best among the top 10 most populous states for per capita vaccinations, now two weeks in a row,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, citing CDC data.

Whites get 1.1 million shots

New demographic data released by the state Friday shows about 1.1 million of the state’s administered doses so far have gone to white recipients — nearly two-thirds of all shots.

Only about 7.3% of the doses have gone to patients identifying as Hispanic or Latino, and roughly the same percentage have gone to Black recipients.

About 5% of the doses have gone to Asian residents. Another 3% identified as another race or ethnicity, and 11% remain categorized “unknown.”

A demographic breakdown of vaccine doses administered statewide as of Thursday.

A demographic breakdown of vaccine doses administered statewide as of Thursday.

Illinois Department of Public Health

That’s far from an equitable distribution compared to Illinois’ 2019 population estimates from the U.S. Census, which suggest about 61% of residents are white, 17.5% are Hispanic and 14.6% Black.

Based on those 2019 Census estimates, that would suggest roughly 14% of white residents have been inoculated, compared to 6.4% of Black residents and just 5.3% of Hispanic and Latino residents.

And it’s one reason Pritzker says he’ll expand the pool of people eligible to sign up for shots Feb. 25, when people 16 and up with chronic health conditions will be able to vie for appointments that remain scarce.

“I’ve said since the very beginning that what we can’t do is let the vaccine distribution exacerbate inequalities that existed, frankly, long before COVID-19,” Pritzker said after touring a Chicago Heights vaccination site. “People with underlying conditions are disproportionately low-income and non-white. That’s precisely because of the existing structural and generational inequities that I’m trying to eradicate.”

That won’t be the case at vaccination sites in Chicago or suburban Cook County, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot and county Board President Toni Preckwinkle say there’s simply not enough supply to go around for those who are currently in line for shots.

About 2.4 million doses have been shipped to the state from the federal government. Pritzker says he expects weekly deliveries to keep growing steadily.

“This coming week providers around Illinois excluding Chicago can expect about 365,000 doses coming from our weekly federal shipment and our local inventory. That’s a significant increase from where we were just one month ago,” Pritzker said.

For now, the state is still working to cover about 4 million people including health care workers, nursing home residents, select essential workers and people 65 or older.

And while infection numbers have fallen precipitously since the start of the year, the virus is still wreaking havoc on vulnerable populations as more infectious variants of COVID-19 have been identified in the state.

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Officials announced 32 more people died with the virus, including 17 from the Chicago area.

That’s below the state’s average of 50 deaths per day over the past week, a rate that has fallen by more than half in the past month.

The state also reported 2,598 new cases of the disease were diagnosed among 103,009 tests statewide, lowering Illinois’ average testing positivity rate to 3.1%. It hasn’t been lower since mid-July.

But public health officials announced a day earlier a variant of the virus first identified in South Africa was found in a patient in western Illinois. It’s been found to spread more easily, as has a variant from the United Kingdom which has already been discovered in 22 Chicago-area residents.

“We all need to wear our masks, we all need to avoid crowds and we all need to participate in testing, so that we can reduce the amount of virus circulating,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “That does slow down the mutation rate, which creates these new variants.”

Since last March, almost 1.2 million residents have been infected, and 19,873 of them have died.

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