Illinois Vaccine Plan Would Prioritize Those Most At Risk

Oct 21, 2020

Credit PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION / VIA FLICKR.COM/PAHOWHO (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Illinois' plan to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine will initially target health care providers, first responders and those associated with vulnerable populations, like nursing home employees and residents.  But many uncertainties remain, including a timetable.

During his daily Coronavirus update to reporters Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker laid out the parameters for getting the vaccine to the public.  But he also said it’s unclear how a vaccine would be delivered, what kind of refrigeration might be needed and how many doses would be required. 

The governor said Illinois won’t move ahead until more information is available. 

“Let me be clear: Illinois will not distribute a vaccine until we have one that is proven safe and effective,” Pritzker said.

States have been working to meet a Centers for Disease Control deadline to submit plans. 

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said at least three vaccine trials are still taking place. But she added it’s too soon to speculate when any one vaccine would be ready.  

However, she indicated she is confident in both safety and efficacy of any vaccine that is approved for use.

“Clinical trials have gone faster, but important safety steps have not been skipped,” she said.

A bigger challenge might be getting enough people to willingly take it. Ezike acknowledged education will be needed to get buy-in from the broader population.

“Getting the vaccine is one step. Getting it into people’s arms is another. And so, we need both of those to get to a better state with this pandemic,” she said. “Once a safe and effective vaccine is available, CDC planning assumptions indicate 80 percent of the population would need to be immunized to achieve herd immunity.”

That could take a while.  Along with the logisitics of getting the vaccine to people, there are also questions about production. Ezike added it could take "many, many months" before it is widely available. 

Under Illinois’ plan, the vaccines will be free to all residents, although some health providers may charge a fee to give the shot.

Pritzker praised Illinois’ plan as “adjustable” as a clearer picture develops.