Suburbs lag behind most counties in vaccinating people age 65-plus

  • Elzora Costello, 109, the oldest resident in Luther Village in Arlington Heights, gets her COVID-19 vaccination last month. Suburban Cook County and other suburban counties lag behind much of the state vaccinating residents 65 and older.

    Elzora Costello, 109, the oldest resident in Luther Village in Arlington Heights, gets her COVID-19 vaccination last month. Suburban Cook County and other suburban counties lag behind much of the state vaccinating residents 65 and older. Photo courtesy of Cindy Vilcak

 
 
Updated 2/16/2021 6:23 AM

While state health officials say nearly 31% of Illinois residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, that's not what's happening in the suburbs.

Residents 65 and older in suburban Cook County and the collar counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will are being vaccinated at a lower rate compared to not only the state, but also to most of the other 96 counties.

 

Anyone 65 and older in Illinois is eligible to receive the vaccine, as are health care workers, hospital staff, long-term care facility residents and front-line essential workers.

Barely 20% of the estimated 93,250 Will County residents who are 65 and older have received a dose of the vaccine, the lowest rate of any suburban county, according to IDPH figures posted Monday on the state agency's vaccination tracking website, dph.illinois.gov/covid19. Only 10 counties have a lower vaccination rate for residents 65 and older than Will County.

DuPage County comes the closest to matching the state rate for vaccinating people age 65 and up, with 28.1% having received at least one dose. But in all, residents in that age group who live in 64 Illinois counties are being vaccinated at higher rates than their suburban counterparts.

In suburban Cook County, 26.3% of those 65 and older have received a shot. In Kane County, the rate is 22.1%. In Lake County it's 24.7%. And it's 20.3% in McHenry County.

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Peoria County has given at least one dose of the vaccine to nearly 78% of its residents in that age group. That would mean more than 24,400 Peoria County residents 65 and older have received a dose of the vaccine, based on the most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures for Illinois counties. That's more 65 and older residents than have gotten the vaccine in Kane, McHenry or Will counties, which have anywhere from 15,000 to 62,000 more residents in that age group.

IDPH officials also reported that more than 60% of residents in Champaign, Adams and Jasper counties who are 65 or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The suburbs are home to an estimated 42% of the state's residents who are 65 and older. IDPH officials report nearly 615,000 of the state's 2,040,000 residents who are 65 and older have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Roughly 218,000 of those people are from the suburbs, according to IDPH figures.

"The demand is so much higher than the supply in some counties," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention at Edward Hospital in Naperville. "There may also be some differences as far as those who opt in for the vaccine as well, which would mean it gets used up faster."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The sheer number of eligible residents in the suburbs has made it harder to get a vaccine than in some other counties, health experts also said. And, the number of vaccine doses allotted to the suburbs isn't proportional to the population in the suburbs.

For example, suburban Cook County is home to 21.2% of the state's people, but only 19.2% of the vaccine doses have gone to its residents. Just 10.5% of the total population of suburban Cook County has had at least one shot of the vaccine, according to IDPH records.

Meanwhile, Peoria County makes up 1.4% of the state's population, but 2.5% of the state's vaccine doses have been administered to that county's residents. IDPH records show 21.5% of Peoria County's residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

State officials have urged eligible residents who are having difficulty getting a vaccine appointment to be patient as the federal government increases its vaccine shipments to the states even as Illinois gears up to add thousands of medically vulnerable residents under the age of 65 to the vaccine eligibility roster starting next week.

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