June 24, 2021

Next phase of COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois will include essential workers, anyone above 65, Gov. Pritzker says

Eligible regions will be allowed to move to looser COVID-19 restrictions on Jan. 15

The next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Illinois, Phase 1B, will include “frontline essential workers” and anyone over the age of 65, representing a total of 3.2 million more Illinois residents who would be eligible to get the vaccine, Gov. JB Pritzker said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

This mostly follows distribution recommendations provided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, but the state lowered their minimum age limit for Phase 1B from the recommended 75 years to 65 years to account for the fact that the average age of COVID-19 deaths among people of color is significantly lower than that of white people, Pritzker said.

“For people of color, multigenerational, institutional racism in the provision of health care has reduced access to care, produced higher rates of environmental and social risk and increased co-morbidities,” Pritzker said in the press conference. “I believe our exit plan for this pandemic must unbalance, overcome structural inequalities that have allowed COVID-19 to rage through our most vulnerable communities.”

“Lowering our minimum age for vaccinations in Phase 1B is one critical component in addressing that,” he added.

The average age of COVID-19 deaths among white Illinois residents is 81 years, he said. That number is 72 years for Black Illinoisans and 68 years for Latinx residents. Lowering the vaccine eligibility age to 65 years means that 1.9 million Illinoisans will be eligible to be vaccinated in this next phase, Pritzker said.

People of color are also more likely to fall into the second category of frontline essential workers, which includes about 1.3 million Illinois residents, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday.

The governor will utilize the Illinois National Guard to increase the state’s efficiency in providing “mass vaccinations” in Phase 1B, he said.

After putting a hold on the movement of health regions out of his Tier 3 mitigation measures through the holiday season, Pritzker said that the current COVID-19 metrics have made him hopeful that the state has avoided the large spike in infections he had feared would come with larger family gatherings and travel.

For this reason, come Jan. 15, he will allow any regions that are meeting the IDPH’s required metrics to move from Tier 3 to Tier 2 mitigation measures, which are less restrictive.

Confused about the different tiers and phases of the governor’s COVID-19 response? Read this explanation of the Restore Illinois plan and its metrics.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 7,569 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 139 additional deaths Wednesday

The seven-day rolling average of Illinois’ positivity rate decreased from 8.5% to 8.4%. The state received the results of 80,974 COVID-19 tests in the 24 hours leading up to Wednesday afternoon.

Illinois has seen 999,288 total cases of the virus, and 17,096 people have died. The state has conducted a total of 13,698,428 tests since the start of the pandemic.

As of late Tuesday, Illinois had 3,928 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Of those, 812 were in intensive care units, and 451 were on ventilators.

To see definitions of key terms used in our COVID-19 updates, read this article titled, “Feeling lost in keeping up with the news?”

Kelli Duncan

Kelli Duncan is a reporter for the Northwest Herald covering county government as well as the communities of Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Marengo and Harvard. She has previously covered local politics, immigration and feature stories.