Nearly one in 12 Illinois residents have had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine
Illinois hit a milestone Thursday with more than 1 million people -- nearly one in 12 residents -- having received at least one dose of a lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine.
The pace of vaccinations stepped up this week, with 62,318 Illinoisans getting COVID-19 shots in the past 24 hours, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Thursday. That's after a record 65,166 people were vaccinated on Wednesday.
Far fewer have received the two doses that are needed, several weeks apart, for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be most effective.
So far, 256,839 people -- about 1 in 50 of the state's residents -- have been fully vaccinated.
The latest vaccination numbers come as 3,328 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday and 69 more people died.
One expert predicted vaccinations for the next phase of eligible people could begin in as soon as 10 weeks.
Two waves of people now are being inoculated. Vaccinations for 850,000 health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities (Phase 1A) started in late 2020, and the majority should wrap up in mid-February, officials said.
Vaccinations for the second wave, called Phase 1B and including 3.2 million people age 65 and older and essential workers like police or teachers, began Jan. 26.
Who's next? That would be Phase 1C: residents age 16 to 64 with medical conditions that increase the risk of serious complications from COVID-19 like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Phase 1C would also expand the essential workers' category to include "transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health" employees.
The vaccination rollout for 1B has been rocky, with thousands frustrated over the lack of appointments, but the pace is accelerating.
The federal government has delivered 2,125,650 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 1,156,453 doses have been administered as of Wednesday night.
That's more than double the number of two weeks ago, on Jan. 21, when 572,389 doses of vaccine had been put into arms.
When does Phase 1B wrap up and broader access begin?
"1B is going to be there for a long time," Northwestern University logistics expert and Professor Hani Mahmassani said. The better question is, "when does 1C start?" he said. "Clearly, you don't want to wait until the last 1B (person) is vaccinated before starting with 1C -- that's a mistake that we made with 1A, in a sense."
Assuming Illinois continues the current pace and averages about 400,000 shots a week, it could take 14 to 16 weeks to finish second doses for Phase 1B, Mahmassani estimated.
But if the state can expand vaccinations by 50% to 600,000 a week, the timeline could shrink to about 10 weeks, he said.
Aiding the process will be a larger role for pharmacy chains expected to receive direct shipments of vaccines next week from the federal government.
"We're looking at relying more on pharmacies, which is something we should have done from the beginning. They have a lot more capacity to bring to the table," said Mahmassani, Northwestern's Transportation Center director.
Another factor is that it's unlikely 100% of Illinoisans will embrace inoculations. Kane County officials, for example, on Wednesday reported about 50% of municipal police officers refused the vaccine initially.
Assuming 75% of the 1B groups engages in vaccinations and with 600,000 shots a week, that could allow the third wave of inoculations for 1C to "start filling in" appointment slots in late March, Mahmassani surmised.
Illinois hospitals were treating 2,341 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday night.
The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 3.4% based on a seven-day average.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,137,559 and 19,444 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
Labs processed 101,307 virus tests in the last 24 hours.