Why suburban Cook County and Chicago will not follow state's vaccination expansion plan
COVID-19 vaccine eligibility won't be expanded in Cook County and Chicago right now in spite of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's plan to add people under 65 with medical conditions on Feb. 25.
There's not enough vaccine for those who currently qualify without adding 1 million more people to the list, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said in a joint statement.
"Our goal is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible," Lightfoot and Preckwinkle said in the statement. "That said, our greatest challenge in doing so is the very limited supply of vaccine we are receiving. While we are making progress every day with vaccinating people in 1a and 1b, at this time we are not being supplied with enough doses that would allow us to expand eligibility in these phases."
The state began vaccinating health care workers and people in long term care facilities, Phase 1A, in December.
The second wave, Phase 1B, of people age 65 and older and essential front-line workers began Jan. 26.
Both rollouts have been hamstrung by delays in getting vaccines as well as confusion, particularly for seniors, on how to get appointments.
The proposed expansion would make more than 1 million more people eligible in suburban Cook County and Chicago, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle said.
"The result would be that those currently eligible, including seniors, front-line essential workers and those in our most heavily COVID-burdened communities would have an even harder time getting a vaccine," they said.
Pritzker said Wednesday it is possible to expand vaccinations to people with underlying medical conditions, such as cancer, because of an increased supply of doses under President Joseph Biden's new administration.
"As quickly as we receive enough vaccine supply, we need to waste no time in protecting a broader section of our most vulnerable population," Pritzker said. "Those who are under 65 and live with comorbidities, such as cancer survivors or those living with heart disease, have an elevated risk of serious complications or death if they contract COVID-19."
He also said people with disabilities would be prioritized.
Lightfoot and Preckwinkle said the change is going too fast.
"These phases were established after careful study and consideration, and are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," they said. "We recognize the governor must make tough choices and consider needs across this diverse state, but given the limited supply of vaccine, we must also make the tough choices as the leaders of the most populous city and county in the state. We look forward to expanding eligibility as vaccine supply improves."