Illinois hits another daily vaccination record as residents scramble for shots: ‘We are asking residents to remain patient’

Less than 2% of the state population have been immunized, but weekly shipments of the vaccine are expected to increase by 20% in the weeks ahead.

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A Walmart employee prepares to administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday in the Austin neighborhood.

A Walmart employee prepares to administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday in the Austin neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Illinois public health officials Wednesday announced another record for COVID-19 doses administered in a day, as residents swarm online to sign up for appointments to get the coveted shots.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said 65,166 doses went into arms Tuesday, a new high for the state after a two-day slowdown due largely to heavy snow over the weekend.

Nearly 1.1 million shots have been given in all, though only 244,588 people have received both required doses — less than 2% of the population.

But the state’s rolling average of shots administered daily is now up to 45,787. The state saw its previous four most prolific vaccination days last week as more essential workers and people 65 or older became eligible.

Supply is still dwarfed by surging demand. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state is redirecting 97,000 excess doses that had been set aside for nursing homes as part of a federal partnership with major drugstore companies. Nursing homes that have accounted for the vast majority of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have already been covered, Pritzker said, so some of the extra doses will go to other eligible recipients.

The Democratic governor also said President Joe Biden’s administrations has promised to bump up weekly vaccine shipments by 20%.

“It’s still not going to be enough,” Pritzker said after touring a vaccination site in downstate Champaign. “That’s why I’ve been very vocal about our need to have a greater amount of manufacturing done in the country ... but I’m very pleased that we’re now seeing an increase in overall production and delivery to the state.”

In the meantime, Chicago-area residents are scooping up vaccination appointments as quickly as they open online.

Slots were locked up through February on the registration website being pushed by Chicago public health officials before the end of a Tuesday news conference announcing it. And Cook County’s new registration website saw nearly 1.9 million hits within an hour of launch, with more than 3,400 appointments booked solid in 35 minutes.

“We are as anxious to provide vaccinations as individuals are to receive them, but we are asking residents to remain patient,” Cook County public health spokeswoman Deborah Song said in an email. “We continue to monitor the user experience and make adjustments to improve the service despite the limited availability of vaccine.”

Drug stores are also taking appointments through their own websites. A rundown of providers is located at coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/vaccination-location.

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Statewide, infection numbers are as low as they’ve been since early October. Officials announced the latest 3,314 cases diagnosed among 96,894 tests, lowering Illinois’ average positivity rate to 3.5%.

The virus also claimed an additional 69 lives, including a man in his 20s from Cook County. Wednesday’s daily toll was above average for the last week, which saw about 59 deaths per day, but that rate has still fallen by almost half compared to a month ago.

Falling positivity rates officially moved Lake, McHenry, Kane and DuPage counties to Phase 4 of Pritzker’s reopening plan, which means business restrictions have now been loosened across the entire Chicago area.

The downstate Metro East region is the only one that hasn’t returned to Phase 4, but it’s on pace to get there Thursday.

More than 1.1 million people have been infected in Illinois over the past 11 months, and 19,375 of them have died.

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