The first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, which was first reported in the United Kingdom, has been confirmed in a DuPage County resident, the DuPage County Health Department announced Wednesday.
The variant, which spreads more easily and quickly than other variants, was first detected in the U.S. in December and first confirmed to be in Illinois on Jan. 15. Although this is the first case of the new variant reported in DuPage County, there have been 25 cases reported in Illinois to date.
The health department also announced Wednesday that the number of COVID-19 vaccines allocated to DuPage County over the next three weeks for first doses will be “very limited,” reduced by greater than 80%. This week DuPage County expects to receive only 2,450 vaccines for first doses for distribution to vaccine providers in DuPage County – which is much lower than the recent average of 14,000 new vaccine doses previously received each week.
Because of this lower allocation, the health department’s community vaccination clinic and other local providers will be primarily focused on administering second doses with very limited appointments for new first doses will be available.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said this weekend vaccine distribution throughout the state will focus on providing more second doses to residents starting this week for the next several weeks, meaning fewer people will be able to receive their first dose of the vaccine.
DuPage County up to this point has administered 137,958 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 36,059 people, or 3.88% of the population, fully vaccinated.
“We fully expect the vaccine supply will catch up over the next few weeks and additional new first dose appointments will become more accessible in early to mid-March,” the health department said in a statement.
The health department advised that until vaccine supply increases, DuPage County will not be expanding to the Phase 1b Part II group announced by Gov. JB Pritzker last week. That group includes individuals ages 16–64 years with co-morbidities and underlying conditions, as well as individuals with disabilities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends transitioning between phases when supply increases significantly through more doses available of current vaccines or new vaccine authorized, when most persons within current phase are vaccinated (>60-70%) or when demand in the current phase is less than vaccination available.
Currently, the health department and vaccine providers in DuPage County are focused on vaccinating the 270,000 people in DuPage County previously eligible in Phase 1b and assuring that all healthcare workers who meet Phase 1a have also had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
“Given these emerging variants alongside ongoing vaccination efforts, supply remains the single greatest challenge in not being able to swiftly vaccinate more people in DuPage County,” DuPage County Health Department Executive Director Karen Ayala said in a statement. “We, too, are frustrated with the insufficient and unpredictable supply our County is receiving. Particularly, since we have established a strong network of community partners with the capacity to currently vaccinate at least 50,000 people per week, yet we are receiving 5% of this capacity next week. We are hopeful that more vaccine will be available in the next several weeks, so we will continue to expand our network and be prepared to get the vaccine into people’s arms as quickly as possible once it is available.”