More than 3 million now fully vaccinated in Illinois
More than 3 million people in Illinois -- nearly one in four -- are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, state health officials reported Wednesday, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered cautious hope that a climb in cases of the disease is slowing.
Another 138,538 vaccine doses were administered Tuesday statewide, even as use of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine was paused for federal investigation of at least six cases of blood clots among women in the U.S. who had been vaccinated. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are far more widely used in Illinois.
Illinois Department of Public Health officials also announced 31 more COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, along with 3,536 new cases of the respiratory disease.
Hospitals throughout the state are treating 2,076 COVID-19 patients, with 453 of those in intensive care.
Yet the seven-day average number of new cases in the state declined Wednesday for the first time since March 31. The state is averaging 3,354 new cases a day over the past week. On Tuesday, the state was averaging 36 more cases a day.
"While we are seeing upward movement of our cases and hospitalizations, there's maybe a lessening of a rise recently," Pritzker said Wednesday during an appearance in Chicago. "I don't want to make any predictions because this virus is very unpredictable, but in the short term, that seems to be good news."
Pritzker, who received a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine 20 days ago, said he is feeling fine.
A meeting of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices took place Wednesday to discuss rare intracranial blood clots in at least six women under age 50 who had taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine weeks earlier. One of the women died; three others are hospitalized.
Johnson & Johnson officials said Wednesday a seventh case is under investigation.
"The first thing they need to do when ACIP meets is look at all these cases and all the data and make a determination -- do they think that there is a very rare side effect?" said Dr. Michael Bauer, medical director at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.
Ultimately, committee members cited a need for additional data and information before deciding whether to lift the pause, so it will remain in place. The committee is expected to meet again in a week to 10 days to make a recommendation on future use of the vaccine. By then, medical outcomes and side effect reactions from a larger sample of patients who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be known and documented.
Clotting issues were reported by European and Australian health officials with a similar type of vaccine produced by AstraZeneca several weeks ago. Authorities in some countries allowed that vaccine to be used on a limited basis on older people who did not have adverse reactions. However, Denmark officials recently decided to stop administering that particular vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine is not approved for U.S. use.
More than 7.2 million people have received a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the U.S., according to CDC data.
One reason regulators issued the pause in the vaccine's use was to "educate all the doctors and emergency rooms and people out there" to be aware of symptoms that indicate a severe reaction, Bauer said.
Those symptoms include severe headaches, abdominal or leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after a Johnson & Johnson shot, the CDC said. For these specific blood clots, doctors need to prescribe alternate treatments instead of typical anticoagulant drugs, such as heparin, the CDC said, noting using the wrong medication can be dangerous.
Several suburban mass vaccination sites were closed for the day Tuesday because they were stocked with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but they reopened Wednesday after being restocked with doses of the other two types of vaccines.
Statewide, 3,028,415 people are fully vaccinated, and 7,482,650 total doses of vaccine have been administered since mid-December, IDPH records show.
The state's death toll from COVID-19 is 21,570, with 1,288,934 -- 1 in 10 Illinoisans -- infected since the outbreak began.
The state's seven-day average case positivity rate is at 4.2%. Case positivity is the percentage of new cases diagnosed from the latest batch of COVID-19 tests. A seven-day average is used to smooth any anomalies in the daily reporting of those figures.
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.