How are vaccine providers ensuring the right people get shots?

  • Occupational therapist Lauren Green of Hometown winces as she receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday from Oak Street Health nurse Tiffany Pipkins at a vaccination clinic in suburban Cook County.

      Occupational therapist Lauren Green of Hometown winces as she receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday from Oak Street Health nurse Tiffany Pipkins at a vaccination clinic in suburban Cook County. Jake Griffin | Staff Photographer

Updated 1/19/2021 5:47 AM

Only a small segment of the population is eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations so far, including health care workers, hospital employees, medical professionals and long-term care facility residents.

So how are vaccination providers ensuring no one is cutting in line?


"We are going to trust you," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior public health medical officer and co-lead at the Cook County Department of Public Health. "We do expect them to have proof of some sort, but the goal is to get as many shots into as many arms as quickly as we possibly can in a safe and equitable manner."

In the absence of any database or centralized registration system, vaccine providers are having to rely largely on the honor system, and that will likely extend to the next group of eligible residents as well -- anyone 65 years or older and essential front-line workers like public safety workers, grocery store employees and teachers.

"We do expect if you do have some sort of identification, to please exhibit that to us, but we are not going to turn people away," Rubin said Monday in Chicago Heights at one of seven Oak Street Health clinics participating in an event expected to provide first doses of the vaccine to 1,200 health care workers.

That is not the case in DuPage County, where health department officials said, "If an individual is unable to provide verification, they are turned away."

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who was also at the Chicago Heights vaccine clinic, said the biggest problem with the vaccination process isn't interlopers but a smaller than anticipated supply of the vaccine.

"We have a significant challenge in terms of quantity of vaccine," she said. "Not just here, but across the country, there isn't the volume of vaccine even for the first (eligible group), so we have some tremendous challenges in the availability of the vaccine."

In fact, Illinois Department of Public Health records indicate that just 8,523 doses of the vaccine were reported administered on Sunday, the fewest since Jan. 3. State health officials noted that more vaccines might have been administered on a certain day but not yet cataloged in the state's reporting system. Providers like hospitals, health departments and pharmacies have 72 hours to log each vaccination into the state's system once it's injected.

The state is also now reporting 105,520 people have been fully vaccinated with both doses. That's less than 1% of the state's population and a fraction of the estimated 850,000 people who are currently eligible.


In all, 495,563 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered throughout the state to medical professionals, health care workers, hospital staff members and residents of long-term care facilities, IDPH reports.

IDPH also reported Monday that 50 more Illinois residents have died from COVID-19, while another 3,385 new cases have been diagnosed.

That brings the state's death toll from the virus to 18,258, with 1,072,214 residents infected since the outbreak began.

The state's seven-day average case positivity rate is now at 5.9%. Case positivity is used by health officials to track the level of infection throughout a certain population. A seven-day average is used to smooth out daily anomalies in new cases and tests results.

Statewide, 3,345 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 infections, according to IDPH figures. Of those, 705 are in intensive care.

State health officials on Monday also loosened business and social gathering restrictions in several counties throughout the suburbs.

Suburban Cook County's Region 10, Region 9 in Lake and McHenry counties, Region 8 in DuPage and Kane counties as well as Chicago's Region 11 were moved to Tier 2 mitigation restrictions under the new metrics, which allows movie theaters and casinos to reopen with capacity limits, as well as provides for some organized recreational athletic activities.

Region 7 in Will and Kankakee counties remain under the harshest restrictions of Tier 3. The region has stalled at Tier 3 because hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients haven't decreased for seven of the past 10 days.

IDPH officials said a new statewide hospital staffing program removed the requirement for hospitals in those regions to maintain 20% or more available non-ICU beds.

State officials also raised the regional test positivity rate to 6.5% or lower in order to move out of any tiered restrictions, which allowed Region 3 in west central Illinois, which contains Springfield, and the state's southernmost Region 5 to have all restrictions removed. Businesses in these counties are able to operate like they did last summer and social gatherings in those counties can now accommodate 50 or fewer people.

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