COVID-19: How some suburban seniors found ways to get vaccines

  • Illinois has received more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government as of Wednesday.

      Illinois has received more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government as of Wednesday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Updated 2/25/2021 8:14 AM

The federal government is promising 100,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots a day in mid-March and the state's dose total surpassed 3 million Wednesday, but it's still a survival-of-the-luckiest scenario for thousands of Illinoisans currently seeking inoculations.

Warrenville resident Charlie Sikaras, 67, is among 3.2 million Illinoisans age 65 and older, plus essential workers such as teachers under Phase 1B, who are eligible for a vaccine.


"As of today, I have been unable to secure an appointment," Sikaras said. "... I am registered with the DuPage County Health Department, two hospital networks and frequently check pharmacy websites."

"I understand that current supplies are limited and also recognize the need for me to have patience. Also, other people might have greater health issues than I do."

The federal government has delivered 3,029,325 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December and 2,310,929 people have been inoculated, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Wednesday.

But it's not enough for the multitudes of Phase 1B residents, many of them seniors, seeking shots.

"We are going to have by mid-March, by all of the projections given to us by the White House and by the vaccine manufacturers, 100,000 doses per day for Illinoisans," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday. "Think about that. We now are able to vaccinate an average of about 60,000 people per day, that will go to 100,000 in just two weeks."

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It took weeks and the collective efforts of Antioch resident Ellen Kessler, 89, her 88-year-old husband and their grown children to secure vaccination appointments. Kessler will get a shot Thursday while her husband is also scheduled -- but not until March 12 at a separate location.

"It seems to be so disorganized," Kessler said. The couple are registered with the Lake County Health Department's AllVax program and signed up with pharmacies, but "there's been nothing from AllVax," Kessler said. "Everything's been word-of-mouth" tips.

Surfing pharmacies on the web paid off for Timothy McCann of Arlington Heights recently. He couldn't get an appointment through the Cook County Department of Public Health. Then he turned to Walgreens' website.

"(I) luckily obtained appointments for both a first and second dose," said McCann, who is in Phase 1B. "I ended up going to a Walgreens in River Grove to get my first shot. I arrived 15 minutes early, got checked in, and their process was pretty smooth."


McCann advises people searching online to use "a list of ZIP codes that they are willing to travel to."

Wheaton resident Rachel Watson waited until Feb. 17 to search for an appointment although Phase 1B inoculations began in late January. "I just assumed it would not be available," said Watson, who qualifies as an essential worker.

She tried the Walgreens website with no luck, then turned to Jewel-Osco. Lightning struck and Watson, 24, snagged an appointment Feb. 18 near her house.

"I feel like I really lucked out," Watson said. But after hearing from older colleagues and relatives about the dearth of shots, "I've definitely been carrying around a sense of guilt, so I've gone back to the Jewel website to try and get appointments for them."

Her tip? "Keep refreshing the Jewel Web page."

On Tuesday, 55,947 more people received COVID-19 shots compared to the seven-day average of 58,141.

So far, 619,480 people -- 4.86% of the state's population -- have been fully vaccinated.

Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses several weeks apart.

Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in days. Trials show it is 66% effective at preventing moderate COVID-19 infections and highly effective against severe cases.

At an Advocate Aurora Health online forum Wednesday, CEO Jim Skogsbergh noted that health providers don't specify what type of vaccine they receive. That's up to the state.

"We want people to use whatever vaccine is available to them," said Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention. "We are confident they'll all work well."

New cases of COVID-19 numbered 2,022 Wednesday with 44 more deaths from the respiratory disease.

Illinois hospitals were treating 1,511 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday night.

The state's seven-day average positivity rate is now at 2.6%.

Total cases statewide stand at 1,179,342, and 20,374 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

Labs processed 82,976 virus tests in the last 24 hours.

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