Applause erupted as doctors and nurses received COVID-19 shots in Chicago and Peoria Tuesday, a positive step after months of a seemingly uncontainable pandemic that has caused over 14,500 deaths in Illinois alone.
"This is something we've been talking about and preparing for a very long time," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said minutes before vaccinations started at Loretto Hospital.
Suburban hospitals are still waiting for their share of Pfizer Inc.'s vaccine to be given to health care workers.
Also Tuesday, 7,359 new cases of COVID-19 were announced and 117 more people died of the respiratory disease.
As of Monday night, 4,965 patients were in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19.
The vaccine was approved over the weekend by the Federal Drug Administration with 43,000 doses arriving in Illinois Monday.
The state has designated "hub hospitals" in specific regions to store vaccines that will be distributed to other facilities.
Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, one of the hubs, did not expect to get its delivery on Tuesday, officials said.
Edward Hospital had anticipated giving shots to front line workers Tuesday but announced that would be delayed until Wednesday.
Cook and Lake counties will be receiving their first vaccine shipments directly from the federal government sometime this week.
Vaccinating the entire state will take months but "today is beginning of the process that will allow us to move toward reopening the state entirely," Pritzker said at a briefing in Peoria near a state site where vaccines are being stored.
"Everyone has reason to be excited at the beginning of the end," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said.
Health care workers will be prioritized first for shots, followed by long-term care facility residents. Next will be essential workers and people with underlying medical conditions.
The positivity rate for COVID-19 cases continued a decline at 8.6% based on a seven-day average. That number is calculated by dividing the number of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed by the total tests processed.
Statewide, 14,509 Illinoisans have died of the virus and 863,477 cases have been recorded.