CHICAGO — The City of Chicago along with the rest of Cook County will not join the rest of the State of Illinois in expanding Phase 1B eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a joint statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday said that because they are not being supplied with enough vaccine doses to vaccinate residents, Chicago and the county will not expand eligibility.
Expanding eligibility would add over a million additional people to Phase 1B, making it harder for senior citizens, frontline workers and those in “heavily COVID-burdened communities” to get vaccinated, the mayor said.
“We recognize the governor must make tough choices and consider needs across this diverse state, but given the limited supply of vaccine, we must also make the tough choices as the leaders of the most populous city and county in the state,” the statement said.
Expanded eligibility until Phase 1B would have allowed Illinois residents under 65 years old with pre-existing medical conditions to be eligible to receive vaccination, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.
The Phase 1B distribution plan for the rest of the state will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for vaccinating pregnant women and people with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, sickle cell disease and other conditions. It begins Feb. 25.
“Many of these people may already be eligible because they’re 65 and over or they’re in a covered profession, but those who are under 65 and live with co-morbidities have an elevated risk of serious complications or even death if they contract COVID-19,” Pritzker said. “As quickly as we receive vaccine supply, we need to waste no time in protecting them.”
The Pritzker administration says the expansion is possible due to increased federal vaccine shipments to the state. It also notes Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is on track for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration as soon as the end of the month.
Pritzker said Illinois is making progress in adding more vaccination sites, with 517 vaccination locations established statewide. However, he conceded making an appointment requires patience because the state hasn’t received enough vaccines to provide for everyone who is eligible in Phase 1B.