Pritzker: Illinois' first COVID-19 vaccine allotment will stretch further than expected
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday the state's initial 109,000-dose COVID-19 vaccine allotment will actually go to that many residents instead of half that amount as originally planned.
"In contrast to something that I said yesterday, we will not need to divide the number of doses that we receive in two, holding back half of them to give as the second dose for each person," Pritzker said Wednesday. "We don't have to hold back because of the speed at which we will be receiving vaccines."
The news came as the state reported 238 more deaths from the respiratory disease Monday, along with 9,757 new cases.
Wednesday's death figures are the most the state has reported in a single day. The spike is due to underreporting from county agencies during the four-day Thanksgiving holiday, Illinois Department of Public Health officials said.
In all, 60 of the state's 102 counties reported COVID-19 deaths Wednesday.
That brings the state's death toll to 12,639 since the outbreak began. There have been a total of 748,603 residents infected during the pandemic.
Pritzker said the state expects to receive the first batch of vaccine vials from Pfizer sometime between Dec. 13 and Dec. 19. The vaccine requires two injections given 21 to 28 days apart to be effective.
Hospital employees, along with residents and workers at congregate care facilities, will be first in line for the vaccines, he said.
"The recommendation, which came yesterday, is to include in the same category the congregate care facility, long-term care facility, residents and the workers there, with health care workers in hospitals, so they'll get it simultaneously as the doses come in," he added.
Earlier in the day, national and state leaders in the long-term care industry urged governors throughout the country to prioritize nursing home residents and staff in the vaccination process, as those individuals have borne the brunt of the disease's effects.
In Illinois, nearly 48% of the state's deaths have been residents of long-term, congregate care facilities.
"Given the asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread of this virus, combined with the explosion of community spread across the U.S., we are extremely hopeful this vaccine will literally be a lifesaver for thousands of residents and expedite the reopening of our facilities to family members and loved ones," said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. "The long-term care industry, including nursing homes and assisted living communities, now call on governors from all 50 states to ensure long-term care residents and staff are the first group to receive the vaccine within this initial phase."
The Pfizer vaccine is fairly temperamental and requires special storage requirements of nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. The vaccine will be directly delivered to providers in special containers with 975 vials, with each vial containing five doses. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vials will be thawed and diluted with an inert substance to reduce the viscosity of the vaccine before being injected into a patient.
The new vaccine details come as the state's infection rate climbed for the second consecutive day. With the new cases added Wednesday, the state's seven-day average infection rate stands at 10.6%.
Meanwhile, hospitals throughout the state reported treating 5,764 COVID-19 patients Tuesday, down 71 patients from Monday. However, health officials believe the decline in patients is a temporary one.
Pritzker announced Monday that no region of the state would have mitigation restrictions reduced for several weeks out of fear of another resurgence due to many who ignored warnings about Thanksgiving travel and gatherings.