Concerns mount about Illinois' lag in vaccine rollout

Health care workers began receiving second shots of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday as concerns mounted about delays in getting the rest of Illinoisans inoculated.

At a briefing, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged the federal government to speed up vaccine delivery, noting "at the current rate that we are going - it would take us almost a year and a half to vaccinate all of Chicago."

But U.S. Centers for Disease Control data shows 538,300 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been distributed to Illinois as of Tuesday and 176,586 people had been inoculated. That's a rate of 1,394 people per 100,000, fewer than New York's rate of 1,539 per 100,000, Indiana's 1,493 per 100,000 or Iowa's 1,906 per 100,000, CDC data showed.

Illinois' lag in vaccines is troubling, said logistics expert Hani S. Mahmassani, Northwestern University Transportation Center director.

"I suspect we have not seen yet the deployment that we need in terms of stabilization to vaccinate people," he said.

Asked about the difference between doses sent to Illinois and people getting shots, spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker Jordan Abudayyeh said, "Some of those doses were just delivered within the last day or so, and upward of 115,000 doses are currently reserved for the long-term care facility pharmacy program that the (federal government) is running."

According to the CDC, more than 100,000 doses arrived in Illinois Tuesday.

Meanwhile, at Loyola University Medical Center, front-line employees have received 7,600 shots out of 9,000 initial doses, Regional Chief Clinical Officer Richard Freeman said.

"We were notified today we were going to get another shipment (Wednesday or Thursday) of the booster doses," Freeman said, referring to the fact Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccines require two shots. Pfizer's follow-up doses are at three weeks, Moderna's at four weeks.

Vaccines are given based on CDC priorities starting with health care workers and nursing home residents. Illinois health care workers began getting vaccinated in mid-December.

Freeman noted that starting a massive vaccination program from scratch was challenging.

"None of us had vaccine clinics four weeks ago," he said. "We had to build all these ... we had to find places, we had to find people and put IT into all this. That being said, we can give about 800 (vaccinations) a day."

New cases of COVID-19 totaled 6,839 Tuesday, a nearly 20% climb from a week ago, and 126 more Illinoisans died from the disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.

The number of patients hospitalized reached 3,905 as of Monday night, less than the 3,966 seven-day average.

The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases stands at 8.5% based on a seven day average. The case positivity rate is one way of measuring the spread of the virus and is calculated by dividing the number of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed by the total tests processed.

The number of new COVID-19 cases is 19% higher than a week ago, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data, or an average of about 6,245 infections in the last seven days compared to 5,243 from Dec. 23 to 29.

Total tests processed in the last 24 hours were 87,083.

Total cases of the virus statewide are 991,719 and fatalities are 16,959.

Some of the state's first health care workers to receive vaccines in December got their second shots Tuesday at Chicago Norwegian Hospital.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady explained "it is not enough to get that one dose of COVID-19 vaccine" with the two available currently. "It's that second dose ... that really gives you that full measure of protection."

Across the nation, about 17 million doses had been distributed, and more than 4.8 million people had received their first round of shots as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

That's short of the White House's earlier goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020.

Some states fall below Illinois' inoculation rate, such as Wisconsin with 1,158 people per 100,000 receiving vaccines and Michigan at 992 per 100,000.

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