State widens vaccine eligibility today, but how fast can you get an appointment?
Even though suburban public health officials are opening up COVID-19 vaccination to anyone 16 and older beginning today, it might take a while for those who are newly eligible to schedule an appointment.
Demand for the vaccine is expected to outpace supply for the foreseeable future, much as it did when Illinois expanded eligibility in January to more than 3 million people 65 and older and essential workers. In some cases, people in that group might still get first dibs.
"Appointment opportunities may still be prioritized for eligible individuals in earlier phases to help ensure individuals at higher risk of exposure and severe health outcomes are vaccinated," said Stephanie Calvillo, spokeswoman at the DuPage County Health Department.
Vaccine providers throughout the state are averaging about 118,000 inoculations a day, but many of those are second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines that require a two-dose regimen.
"Patience is still the watch word of the day," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday during a news conference at a state-supported mass vaccination site in Forest Park. "We still don't have vaccine for everybody all at once. It's been a complicated endeavor for everybody."
Complicating things further is that Chicago public health officials are not opening eligibility to anyone 16 and older just yet. Pritzker urged Chicagoans to look for appointments in the suburbs.
That could make it harder for newly eligible suburban residents to find appointments, even though the state is adding 150,000 first doses at 11 state-supported mass vaccination sites in the suburbs.
Suburban public health officials urge residents to sign up for alerts on new vaccination appointments at county health department websites:
• In suburban Cook County, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.
• In DuPage County, residents can register online at dupagehealth.org/667/COVID-19-Vaccine.
• In Kane County, online vaccine registration is available at kanehealth.com/vaccine_appointments.
• In Lake County, residents can schedule vaccine appointments at allvax.lakecohealth.org.
• In McHenry County, vaccine registration is available at covidvaccination.dph.illinois.gov.
• In Will County, vaccination appointments are scheduled at willcountyhealth.org/covid-19/covid-vaccine.
"Once someone is in the system, they receive a notice based on their phase," said Caryn Stancik, a Cook County Health System spokeswoman. "But because all new appointments starting (today) are open to 16-plus, then everyone gets notice via email and/or text that appointments will be released at a certain time."
This new wave of eligibility also brings with it a new level of vaccine dose allotment complications. Only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be used only on those who are 18 and older.
There appears to be no concerted effort at suburban health departments to reserve Pfizer vaccine doses for eligible teenagers. "DuPage County Health Department is not holding vaccine back for any populations," Calvillo said. "Rather, we continue to get vaccines into the arms of those eligible as efficiently and equitably as possible."
Several large suburban school districts, such as Indian Prairie Unit District 204 in Naperville and Aurora, and Elgin Area School District U-46 say there are no plans to host vaccinations for eligible students at the schools.
"We will work with our local health departments if they need our support," said U-46 spokeswoman Mary Fergus. "However, most of the current demand is being met through health departments, hospitals and health agencies."
Local health officials note newly eligible residents should check with their primary care physicians or register with pharmacy chains, where vaccine doses are also available.
Here are some pharmacy registration sites:
Illinois residents can also find vaccination sites at the state's coronavirus.illinois.gov website.