March 07, 2021

Pritzker criticizes federal rollout of vaccines to nursing homes

Local health departments, some pharmacies to begin taking appointments Monday for residents who qualify for Phase 1B

The rollout of vaccines to the country’s nursing home and other long-term care facilities has been too slow, Gov. JB Pritzker said during a news conference Friday.

Many long-term care facilities have opted to go through CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies to vaccinate their staff and residents, a program set up by the federal government.

The federal government set aside 524,050 doses earmarked for Illinois for the program, and of those, 93,683, or less than 20%, have been administered, Pritzker said.

“I’m very troubled to see the slow pace of the federal government’s program to vaccinate long-term care residents, and I have expressed that concern to the Biden administration and to the pharmacy partners,” Pritzker said. “They must accelerate the pace of vaccines to our most vulnerable residents.”

In contrast, Pritzker said, more than 60% of the vaccine doses the state of Illinois has received have been administered. Another 10% have likely been administered but have not yet been reported.

As of Friday, nearly all health care workers in Phase 1A have been provided the opportunity to get vaccinated, Pritzker said.

“This week alone Illinois set three days of records for vaccine doses administered and not just by squeaking by,” Pritzker said. “Our new high blew past our last by more than 10,000.”

Pritzker said the pharmacy participating in the federal partnership has promised to vaccinate nursing homes by Feb. 15 with second and third visits to follow in subsequent weeks.

“President Biden has been in office for less than two days and already there’s a noticeable difference in the effort to listen to and be responsive to the needs of the states,” Pritzker said. “So far, it appears that addressing COVID is his administration’s top priority. Hour by hour, his team is seemingly unraveling the mess the previous administration left behind and focusing on improving vaccine supply and administration.”

The state of Illinois is on track to begin Phase 1B of its vaccination plan Monday. About 1.3 million Illinois workers qualify for Phase 1B, as well as another 1.9 million residents who are 65 years or older.

Vaccine supply remains limited, however, and residents may not get the vaccines as quickly as they would like, Pritzker said.

The state expects to receive 126,000 first doses next week for distribution outside of Chicago. That translates to less than 4% of the Phase 1B population, he said.

This week, the Illinois National Guard’s mobile vaccination teams began operations at six sites in Cook County and sites are in the works for St. Clair County in southwestern Illinois, Pritzker said. The plan is for about 25 additional teams to be deployed over the next three weeks to “high-need areas” across the state.

Some local health departments and some pharmacies will begin taking appointments Monday for residents who qualify for Phase 1B. Those pharmacies include those at CVS, Walgreens and Jewel Osco.

Not all county health departments will begin Phase 1B Monday, however.

The Lake County Health Department said in a news release Friday that it will continue providing COVID-19 vaccinations to Phase 1A health care workers at its Lake County Fairgrounds site, and residents of long-term care facilities in Lake County are still receiving vaccinations through the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program.

By Feb. 1, additional pharmacies will also begin offering vaccines. They include Hy-Vee, Kroger and Mariano’s.

Because of supply limitations, vaccines will be administered by appointment only, Pritzker said, warning against lining up outside local pharmacies. The Walgreens registration is website already live, he said.

Emily K. Coleman

Originally from the northwest suburbs, Emily K. Coleman is the associate editor for the Northwest Herald. She spent about seven years prior to that with Shaw Media, first covering the town of Dixon for Sauk Valley Media and then various communities within McHenry County from 2012 to 2016.