Pritzker announces next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, lowers vaccine age to 65

Coronavirus Watch

RN Connie Garcia extracts a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine which will be administered to a Texas Tech University Health Science Center student at Texas Tech University Health Science Center’s Academic Building Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in Odessa, Texas. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)

CHICAGO – Governor JB Pritzker announced guidelines for the next stage of COVID-19 vaccine distribution across Illinois – Phase 1B. 

“With limited amounts of vaccine available at this time, it is important to prioritize individuals who are at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those at greatest risk of severe illness or death,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Generally, Latinx and Black populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 with data showing related deaths at younger ages.  We are hopeful that by lowering the eligibility age to 65 years we can help reduce this disparity.” 

Phase 1B will begin when Phase 1A is substantially complete. It will include all Illinois residents age 65 years and older and “frontline essential workers,” as outlined by ACIP. In order to reduce COVID-19 mortality and limit community spread in Black and Brown communities, Illinois reduced the age eligibility in Phase 1B by 10 years from ACIP’s recommendation. Currently, the average age of COVID-19 death is 81 for White residents, 72 for Black residents and 68 for Latino residents. 

The frontline essential workers designation includes many residents who carry a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure because of their work duties, often because they are unable to work from home, and/or they must work closely to others without being able to socially distance. Communities of color are disproportionately represented in many of these industries. The category defined by the federal government as frontline essential workers, which the CDC estimates as about 30 million Americans, includes first responders; education workers, including teachers, support staff and childcare workers; manufacturing, distribution and agriculture workers, including grocery store workers; United States Postal Service workers; public transit employees; corrections workers and incarcerated people, and others.  

All in all, Phase 1B totals approximately 3.2 million people throughout the state of Illinois. The Illinois National Guard will be assisting in the development of mass vaccination sites and the state will be increasing the number of providers enrolled in the state’s vaccination database to support widespread availability when the time comes. 

The IDPH team continues to review ACIP’s recommendations for Phase 1C.        

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(This story was originally published on January 6, 2021)

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