Suburbs won't expand vaccines this week to medically vulnerable under 65

  • Immunization coordinator Denise Flores of the Lake County Health Department gets a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine ready as hundreds of people in their cars filed into the Lake County Fairgrounds to get a dose last month.

    Immunization coordinator Denise Flores of the Lake County Health Department gets a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine ready as hundreds of people in their cars filed into the Lake County Fairgrounds to get a dose last month. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, Jan. 19

 
 
Updated 2/24/2021 7:33 AM

Suburban health departments aren't going along with Illinois' plan to expand vaccine eligibility starting Thursday to people under 65 who have medical conditions.

Suburban Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry and Will county health officials, as well as Chicago health officials, say the vaccine supply is too low to allow access to more people. Many essential workers and people 65 and older still are having difficulties getting the vaccine after becoming eligible a month ago.

 

"Given our limited supply of vaccine, we need to make a local decision that will best serve the needs of our residents," Lake County Health Department officials said in a statement.

The health departments did not give any specific timelines for when those medically vulnerable residents will be able to get vaccines.

Other vaccine providers in those counties, such as pharmacy chains and hospital networks, are not affected by the health departments' decisions.

Walgreens spokeswoman Emily Delnicki said pharmacies are following state eligibility guidelines and confirmed that people can go to stores outside their county for vaccination.

"When individuals arrive for appointments, patients must sign an affidavit confirming they meet their state's eligibility requirement for the vaccine," Delnicki said. "Patients also need to show a valid government ID to confirm their identity at the time of their vaccination appointment. You can choose a different store out of your county as long as there are appointments and inventory available."

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The Kane County Health Department did not respond to requests for information, but it says on its website it is providing COVID-19 vaccinations to health care workers and essential workers. The website directs people over 65 to seek vaccines at clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and medical practices.

In Mount Prospect, Nancy Horton said the search for vaccine appointments for herself and her husband has not panned out after several weeks of trying. She hopes postponing vaccine eligibility for those under 65 will free up doses for her and others in the 65-plus category who have been waiting since they became eligible Jan. 25.

"It just seems like we're going around in circles," she said. "You look at the sites each day and get the same answer all the time. It's just totally frustrating to get no information or anything that resembles a hopeful note."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker two weeks ago announced the eligibility expansion to those who have medical conditions that place them at a high risk for severe cases of COVID-19, including people with cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases, diabetes, heart problems, weakened immunity after a solid organ transplant, obesity, pregnancy and sickle cell disease.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We do not have the vaccine supplies to expand to (Phase) 1B-plus at this time," said Will County Health Department spokesman Steve Brandy. "We hope to be able to do that soon."

Meanwhile, state health officials announced 43,282 more vaccinations Tuesday as the state received an additional 50,710 doses of the vaccine. State officials said they expect 500,000 new doses by the end of the week.

So far, 1,664,128 people in Illinois have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to Illinois Department of Public Health records.

IDPH officials also announced 27 more COVID-19 deaths, as well as 1,665 new cases of the disease.

The state's death toll from the virus is now at 20,330, while 1,177,320 Illinoisans have been infected since the outset of the pandemic.

Hospitals statewide are treating 1,488 patients for the respiratory ailment. Of those hospitalized, 361 are in intensive care, according to IDPH records.

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