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Shot of J&J for JB — Pritzker gets COVID-19 vaccine: ‘I feel great’

The governor received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. About 14% of the state population has been fully vaccinated.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Springfield on Wednesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from Registered Nurse NaTasha McCoy at the state-supported mass vaccination site in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield on Wednesday.
Justin L. Fowler /The State Journal-Register via AP

Barely a year after issuing a sweeping stay-at-home order for Illinois residents as COVID-19 turned life upside down across the state and beyond, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was vaccinated against the coronavirus on Wednesday, calling it a key step “back to normal life.”

The shot that went into the governor’s arm at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is among more than 5 million doled out statewide since December.

“I’m deeply, deeply grateful that so many of our residents have embraced this life-saving protection,” Pritzker said before getting his dose. “But I also want Illinoisans to know, especially those who may not yet feel confident enough to get vaccinated, that I’m not asking you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.

“I’m not a doctor, but I trust doctors, and thanks to the great work of our doctors, researchers, and public health scientists, these vaccines offer us all the fastest way back to normal life,” Pritzker said. “I’m so excited to get there and to protect my family, my friends and my co-workers.”

After getting his one-and-done Johnson & Johnson jab, the governor said, “I feel great.”

Pritzker, 56, was vaccinated in Springfield, more than 200 miles away from his Gold Coast mansion. The Democratic governor still wouldn’t have been eligible to get a shot in his hometown, where city officials won’t expand eligibility until Monday for Chicago adults younger than 65 with underlying health conditions.

By his own guidance, Pritzker could have gotten the shot a month ago when he gave the vaccination green light to that broad swath of the population with health conditions elsewhere in the state.

In recent weeks, Pritzker had said he didn’t want to jump the line while thousands of seniors and essential workers vie for appointments that are still hard to come by more than three months into an unprecedented vaccination campaign.

But Pritzker underscored his own eligibility even further this week when he expanded the pool of shot recipients to include government workers as well as higher education staff and members of the media.

Restaurant staff, construction trade workers and religious leaders can join the line March 29, before appointments open to any resident 16 or older starting April 12. Those new guidelines apply to all Illinois residents, but not at Chicago or Cook County sites, where officials have said supply is still too scarce to add more people to the line.

About 14% of Illinois’ 12.7 million residents have been fully vaccinated. Two-thirds of people 65 or older have gotten at least one shot, and about a third of those 16 or older have gotten a shot, according to Pritzker.

A total of 107,219 vaccinations were administered Tuesday across Illinois, with the state now averaging 97,680 shots per day.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker gets a bandage after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Springfield on Wednesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker gets a bandage from Registered Nurse NaTasha McCoy after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Springfield on Wednesday.
Justin L. Fowler /The State Journal-Register via AP

Infection rates had dipped as the vaccine rollout ramped up, but they’ve slowly crept back up over the past two weeks.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,793 new COVID-19 cases — the most in a day since Feb. 11 — detected among 79,381 tests.

That raised the state’s rolling average positivity rate to 2.8%, its highest point since Feb. 23; that marks a net increase of 33% in less than two weeks.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

Pritzker said despite the uptick, the state is still “on course” to lift more business restrictions next month, but warned scaling back plans to reopen isn’t out of the question if the metrics get much worse.

“I don’t expect us to get there, but I’ve been to this movie before, seeing the rising positivity rates,” he said. “There’s more activity going on and I think people maybe are being a little less careful, and I want to remind everybody: please keep your distance, please continue to wear your mask, please be respectful of others.”

At a Chicago news conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was “very concerned” about the city’s increase in cases, especially among young people.

“It feels like October, when we saw the second surge happen,” she said. “We’re not in a position, as a result of that, to really be talking about any more reopening issues, particularly when it comes to expanding capacity indoors.”

New COVID-19 cases by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

Officials also reported 20 more coronavirus deaths, including those of three Cook County residents.

More than 1.2 million residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21,136 of them have died since last March.

The governor has had a few close calls with the virus over the past year while keeping a busy pandemic schedule. He went into isolation in May when a staffer tested positive, and again a month later after attending an event with then-infected Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. Another Pritzker staffer tested positive in September. The governor tested negative after all those close contacts.

Pritzker was joined Wednesday by supporters and opponents alike who rolled up their sleeves at the fairgrounds.

Phyllis Jones, a retired Springfield nurse who received her second vaccine dose, said she thought it was “great when leaders get out there and show everybody that this is an OK thing and needs to happen.”

Retired nurse Phyllis Jones rests after receiving a dose of the coronavirus vaccine at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
Retired nurse Phyllis Jones rests after receiving a dose of the coronavirus vaccine at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
Andrew Sullender/Chicago Sun-Times

Miguel Flores said after receiving his dose that the Pritzker administration had “failed” the people of Illinois.

“I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, just a typical citizen who pays a lot of taxes and I’m sick and tired of paying taxes for illegal aliens who come in and get the vaccine free.”

Miguel, a native of Puerto Rico said he “might not” have gotten the vaccine except that he hoped getting it would allow him to travel to Puerto Rico and “get back without a problem.”

For help finding an appointment, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/vaccination-location or call (833) 621-1284.