Is 60% fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the end good enough for Illinois?

  • COVID-19 vaccine fever has abated somewhat in Illinois, it appears, compared to crowds flocking to mass sites this winter.

    COVID-19 vaccine fever has abated somewhat in Illinois, it appears, compared to crowds flocking to mass sites this winter. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/6/2021 8:43 AM

CVS is promising a Bermuda vacation, Cook County is rolling out Six Flags Great America tickets, and Illinois lawmakers recently permitted bars to give patrons free drinks if they're fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But despite incentives, the state's vaccination numbers are only inching up, with average daily shots currently at 37,328 compared to nearly 133,000 on April 12.

 

"I have a feeling that we're approaching that saturation point here," said logistics expert Hani S. Mahmassani, a Northwestern University professor. "Vaccination results are lower than we were hoping at this stage, especially given the availability of vaccine."

As of Thursday, 5,317,858 Illinoisans are fully vaccinated, or 41.7% of the entire population of 12.7 million, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

However, just 10.8 million residents age 12 and older are actually eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine shots now. That means about 49% of eligible Illinoisans are fully vaccinated although shots have been widely available for weeks.

Current turnout data indicates the best Illinois might hope for is that in the end about 60% of residents become fully inoculated against the deadly disease, said Mahmassani, director of Northwestern's Transportation Center.

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"Overall, a 60% range would be a reasonable target, and that's going to require effort to get there," he said.

Pfizer and Moderna each have a two-dose vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson offers a one-dose version. But Pfizer is the only drug manufacturer whose shot was approved for children age 12 through 17.

In September, Pfizer is expected to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval to give its vaccine to younger children, and that should spark more inoculations, Mahmassani said.

"When schools open up in the fall, there's going to be probably a vaccination wave for younger folks," he said.

The federal government approved the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 on May 10. There are 659,053 children in that age bracket, the IDPH reports, and 158,811 or 24% have received their first shots so far, state data showed Thursday.

Meanwhile, over 67% of all Illinois adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That's higher than the U.S. average of 63%, and it appears the state is on target to reach President Joe Biden's goal of 70% of American adults receiving one shot by July 4.

The start of school this fall, and many universities requiring returning students to be inoculated against the virus, should bump up tallies, Mahmassani said.

In addition, "I have high hopes that when some of these festivals start again, that's going to get some more vaccinations," he said. Lollapalooza is requiring patrons be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test result for each day of attendance.

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