SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. J.B. Pritzker reiterated Thursday that all Illinois residents age 16 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, April 12, as vaccine supply — but also virus transmission rates and hospitalizations — continues to increase.
More than 80 of the state’s 102 counties have already opened eligibility to individuals age 16 and over in advance of the April 12 eligibility expansion date.
The decision to move to universal adult eligibility at each of the state’s more than 1,000 vaccination sites outside the city of Chicago comes as a result of increased availability of vaccine doses, Pritzker said. The governor first announced the April 12 goal on March 18.
“We have everything we need to get to the other side of this crisis as vaccine shipments increase and more Americans are ready to be vaccinated,” Pritzker said during a Thursday news conference. “Our fight to stay safe and protect ourselves isn’t over, but with each day and each dose, we move closer and closer to putting this pandemic to an end.”
The city of Chicago, which receives a separate vaccine supply from the state, has said it will expand eligibility to all on April 19, according to the Chicago Sun-Times and other media outlets, but Chicago residents may make appointments at any site that is accepting Illinoisans regardless of address—including several sites in suburban Cook County.
To date, 73% of Illinois seniors and 42% of Illinoisans 16 and over have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and over 2.5 million, or 20% of Illinois residents, had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
The state has administered over 6.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine thus far and set a single-day record for vaccines administered with 154,201 doses Wednesday.
But virus transmission rates also continued to increase Thursday as the vast majority of Illinoisans are short of full vaccination.
Public health officials reported an additional 3,739 new cases of COVID-19 statewide out of 97,741 test results reported over the previous 24 hours.
The state’s seven-day rolling positivity rate stood at 4.2% Thursday, the highest since Jan. 30 and up 0.7 percentage points from one week ago.
Officials also reported an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations Thursday. As of Wednesday night, 1,798 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 351 were in the ICU and 151 were on ventilators. Those are highs since mid-February.
Pritzker announced an additional 150,000 first-dose vaccine appointments would be made available in Cook County and surrounding areas beginning next week as rapid response teams continue efforts to vaccinate areas with advanced warning signs of COVID-19 resurgence.
Pritzker encouraged residents who are able to make an appointment to receive a vaccine as soon as possible, but said some residents may still encounter difficulties in finding available appointments as the state continues to work to meet demand.
“Even with all of these new appointments, there will not be enough vaccine in week one to get everyone that wants to be vaccinated a dose, but vaccine doses will be arriving more quickly than ever before,” Pritzker said.
“The public health system is doing everything in its power to get these vaccines into the arms of our residents as quickly as the federal government can deliver them,” he added.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike echoed Pritzker’s message of urgency in receiving a vaccine amid increasing statewide trends in case positivity and hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 vaccination is one of the strongest, most powerful tools we have to fight this pandemic together,” Ezike said Thursday. “We have a vaccine and we’re elated about that, but it doesn’t mean that this pandemic is completely over.”
She warned of the ongoing resurgence of the virus, and noted better herd immunity is needed before the state can roll back mitigation measures, which means more vaccinations are needed.
“Let’s continue working to end this pandemic. We need to cross that finish line all together, and it’s only a few steps away,” she said.
More information about the COVID-19 vaccine and appointment availability can be found at coronavirus.illinois.gov or by calling 833-621-1284.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.