QUINCY — Illinois residents between the ages of 18 and 64 with underlying health conditions will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting later this month.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced the Phase 1B vaccination distribution expansion will start Feb. 25.
“Many of these individuals may already be eligible because they’re 65 and over or they’re in a covered profession, but those who are under 65 and live with comorbidities have an elevated risk of serious complications or even death if they contract COVID-19,” Pritzker said. “So as quickly as we receive enough vaccine supply, we need to waste no time in protecting them.”
Comorbidities and underlying conditions included in the expanded vaccine rollout are cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, heart conditions, immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant, obesity, pregnancy, pulmonary disease and sickle cell disease.
Illinois Senate Minority Leader, Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, who has been critical of the state’s rollout, was pleased to hear the announcement.
“While the state should have provided some method from the very beginning for those whose doctors have been insisting that their patient’s life or health depends on being vaccinated, as has been the case in other states, there is now a light at the end of a very long tunnel for those in greatest need,” McConchie said in a statement.
Pritzker made the announcement while touring the vaccination and rapid testing site at the Oakley-Lindsay Center.
As of Wednesday, Adams County has the highest percentage of residents who received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 6% or 3,934 of Adams County residents have received both doses, and more than 18,900 vaccines have been administered.
“From the very beginning, the work here has been exemplary,” Pritzker said. “You make our state proud, and I want to pay special tribute to the Adams County Public Health Administrator Jerrod Welch and to his entire team for their tremendous planning and creativity during this pandemic.
“It’s because of the great work of people like Jerrod that Illinois is setting new records in our vaccine rollout.”
Pritzker said he was hopeful that a new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson would be approved by the end of the month. That vaccine would not require extreme cold storage and only requires a single dose.
“And Johnson & Johnson has said it’s on track to deliver 100 million doses to the United States by the end of June,” he said. “That is truly welcome news.”
The state’s seven-day rolling average for vaccine administration is 55,135. Meanwhile, the state’s positivity rate has fallen to 3.3%, which is the lowest since summer.
The OLC has served as a vaccination site for residents in Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike and Schuyler counties. More than 20,000 people in the region have been vaccinated locally in the last month.
Welch said the OLC was used for H1N1 vaccinations in 2009, when more than 10,000 people were inoculated.
“So we knew that this facility would work well for this,” he said. “We didn’t know quite the logistics of 15-minute holding timeframes to make sure that people were safe and not reacting to the vaccine.”
Welch said since the rapid testing site was established, more than 40,000 tests have been performed.
Adams County Board Chairman Kent Snider said it was hard to believe community leaders started briefings on COVID-19.
“We really didn’t even know what we were attacking,” Snider said. “There was no playbook.”
He thanked the state for its support for the rapid testing and vaccination site as well as the hundreds of volunteers and workers helping out with the continued operation.
“We’re so proud of Quincy and Adams County to really be a model for other communities around the nation,” Snider said.
Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore said the rapid testing unveiled in November would not have been possible without the support and resources of the state.
“In three short weeks, we went from a 20% seven-day positivity rate to 8%, and the number of active cases in our county was nearly cut and half,” he said. “We used that program to prepare our community for how a mass vaccination program could be deployed.”