Suburbs worry about bottleneck with COVID-19 vaccination eligibility set to expand

  • Guadalupe Sarabia of Aurora gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot Thursday at a new mass vaccination site at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora.

      Guadalupe Sarabia of Aurora gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot Thursday at a new mass vaccination site at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Updated 4/6/2021 6:24 AM

Illinois' COVID-19 vaccine expansion to all residents 16 and older beginning next week is causing concern in Cook and some collar counties about meeting the demand for shots.

More than 80 of Illinois' 102 counties have already extended COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, state officials announced Monday, but that's not the case in the Chicago metro area, which is still limiting inoculations to people 65 and older and essential workers.


Eligibility for anyone 16 or older begins April 12.

"There is a still a great demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in Cook County and across the country," Cook County Health Communications Manager Elizabeth Pedersen said. "Appointments are typically gone within the first few hours of being released."

Lake County authorities also reported insufficient doses.

"Eligibility will open to all over 16, but vaccine supply still does not meet current demand in Lake County," Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said Monday.

The race to vaccinate comes as the seven-day average of new cases of COVID-19 rose by nearly 16% in a week. Hospitalizations ticked up by about 10% Monday, Illinois Department of Public Health data showed.

The number of Illinoisans fully vaccinated stands at 2,380,733, about 18.7% of the population, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledged the trajectories of vaccines and infections at an event Monday in Champaign.

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"Hospitalizations are rising. ICU beds are getting filled with patients," Pritzker said. "We're now seeing a rise in cases here, but these things come in waves. We have seen this before. Other places have had three surges; we've had two."

Noting the state is averaging more than 100,000 shots a day, he said, "I am hoping that we can overcome the surge for the very first time ever."

Illinois began COVID-19 vaccinations in late December with health care workers and long-term care residents. The next group included people 65 and older and front-line essential workers like police and teachers, and in March more essential workers such as those in restaurants were added.

The wave of seniors seeking appointments and the paucity of shots caused immense frustration this winter, but supplies have ramped up with the Biden administration promising 1 million doses a week for Illinois in April.


"The DuPage County Health Department's COVID-19 vaccine registration list still has more than 200,000 individuals signed up," spokeswoman Stephanie Calvillo said, adding higher than average wait times continue at the county's call center.

"Over the past 14 days, there have been nearly 3,500 new sign-ups per day. DCHD expects sign-ups will increase further once eligibility opens to all Illinois residents 16 years and older," she said.

Lake County's Pfister said "demand is still high and appointments are filling up. However, call volume has decreased as more seniors become vaccinated."

On Sunday, 27,248 more Illinoisans received COVID-19 shots. That's significantly lower than the seven-day average of 105,779, but the weekend, with many people marking Easter, might have delayed reporting, officials said.

The federal government has delivered 7,784,215 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 6,318,070 shots have been administered.

New cases of COVID-19 numbered 2,102 Monday with 11 more deaths from the respiratory disease, the IDPH recorded.

From Monday through March 30, daily averages of new cases came to 2,735, compared to 2,358 from March 23 to 29.

Illinois hospitals were treating 1,581 COVID-19 patients Sunday night, the highest number since Feb. 23. From Sunday through March 29, hospitalization daily averages came to 1,452 compared to 1,301 patients from March 22 to 28.

The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 3.8% based on a seven-day average.

Total cases statewide stand at 1,258,736, and 21,384 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

Labs processed 59,586 virus tests in the last 24 hours.

Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses several weeks apart. Johnson & Johnson's version takes just one shot.

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