With 130K shots given, Illinois sets single-day vaccine record as eligibility expands

The pool of people vying for coveted vaccine appointments grew Thursday Gov. J.B. Pritzker started allowing residents 16 or older with underlying health conditions to register for a shot.

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Nurse practitioner Ilse Vega administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a West Englewood site during the pandemic.

Nurse practitioner Ilse Vega administers a COVID-19 vaccine last week at a West Englewood site.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Illinois set a new record for most COVID-19 vaccinations administered in a day as hundreds of thousands more people become eligible to receive them, public health officials announced Thursday.

The 130,021 shots that went into arms Wednesday shattered the state’s previous high of 95,375 inoculations given Feb. 11, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

And after a week of brutal winter weather slowed down the rollout, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he expects six-figure vaccination days to become the norm as pharmaceutical companies bolster production and the federal government parcels out larger shipments. 

The pool of people vying for coveted vaccine appointments grew Thursday, too, as the Democratic governor’s expansion of the Phase 1B rollout took effect, allowing residents 16 or older with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, to register for a shot. 

That’s not the case in Chicago or suburban Cook County, where leaders say supply remains too scarce to cover the essential workers and elderly people who remain at the top of the priority list. The city says it hasn’t even covered a third of the Phase 1B population yet.

So while Chicago-area residents in the expanded pool can try their luck elsewhere, Pritzker’s office said he’s asking “all local health departments and providers to begin vaccinating this medically vulnerable population as soon as possible.”

“As states and cities across the country expand eligibility for the vaccine, it’s vital that the most medically vulnerable like those with heart disease, lung disease and cancer have access to the vaccine, regardless of their age,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to see that we can effectively administer more than 100,000 doses a day, and with the federal supply projected to hit 100,000 doses delivered daily in mid-March, we must be prepared to vaccinate this population as quickly as possible.”

Pritzker has said his early expansion will help “equitably distribute” the vaccine among people in communities of color, who are disproportionately impacted by both the virus and chronic health conditions. 

That imbalance has already played out over the first two months of the rollout. White residents who make up about 61% of the population have received about 67% of the state’s doses so far, while Black residents who comprise about 15% of the population have only gotten 7.6% of the doses, state data shows. About 18% of the population identify as Hispanic or Latino, but they’ve only received 7.8% of the shots. About 10 percent of doses have gone to people where the race or ethnicity was unknown.

Chicago officials have touted progress in bridging that gap with targeted neighborhood vaccination efforts. Officials say eligibility won’t expand until the city’s Phase 1C rollout, which is slated for March 29.

“If Chicago expanded eligibility, it would add hundreds of thousands of more people seeking vaccine in Chicago, without increasing the amount of available vaccine, the city’s public health department said in a statement. “This would mean those currently eligible, including seniors, frontline essential workers and those in our most heavily COVID-burdened communities, would have an even harder time getting a vaccine.”

Under Pritzker’s plan, the expanded group of eligible recipients also includes people with cancer, kidney disease, COPD, obesity and sickle cell disease, among other conditions. 

About 2.4 million vaccines have been administered statewide, but only 671,717 people have received both required doses, or about 5.3% of the population. 

A third vaccine that requires only one shot, developed by Johnson & Johnson, is poised to receive emergency federal approval Friday. That’s one reason Pritzker has said he expects the state’s supply to start booming with upwards of 100,000 doses shipped daily from the federal government by mid-March. 

For now, the state’s rolling average of shots given per day is up to 66,274.

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Meanwhile, infection rates across the state are at their lowest points since the onset of the pandemic nearly a year ago. 

Illinois logged 1,884 new cases which were diagnosed among 91,292 tests to lower the seven-day average statewide positivity rate to 2.5%. Chicago’s regional rate is down to 3%. Both those figures soared past 13% in the worst days of the crisis last fall. 

The state also reported 32 more COVID-19 deaths, including that of a Cook County man in his 20s. 

Illinois is still averaging 40 deaths per day, but that rate has shrunk almost in half over the past month. 

For a list of state-supported vaccination sites taking expanded Phase 1b appointments, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/.

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