CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker said Illinois will lower the minimum age for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations to 65, while the state will also begin lifting some restrictions for regions which meet certain metrics starting on January 15.
During a press conference Wednesday, Pritzker said Illinois is breaking with guidance from the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and dropping the minimum age for the next phase of Covid vaccinations from 75 to 65 years of age.
Pritzker said the state is breaking with ACIP’s recommendations out of concerns about equity and the virus’ impact on communities of color.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the average age someone dies from COVID-19 is 81 for White residents, 72 for Black residents and 68 for Latino residents.
WATCH ABOVE: Governor JB Pritzker and health officials give an update on COVID-19 and vaccination efforts in Illinois Wednesday
“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,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement.
IDPH said the next phase of vaccinations will begin once the current one, which is limited to healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities, is “substantially complete.” Pritzker said about a third of the healthcare workforce outside of Chicago has been vaccinated so far.
Frontline workers across many industries are also part of the “1B” vaccination phase, which includes 3.2 million people in Illinois.
Pritzker also said stricter “Tier 3” mitigation measures which have remained in place for weeks would begin to be relaxed for regions that qualify starting on January 15.
Additional restrictions were put in place as Illinois saw a spike in COVID-19 cases in November and Pritzker said they were extended through the holidays after experts said family gatherings could lead to another surge.
Some states have seen a recent spike in infections, including California where hospitals are so swamped with coronavirus patients the state has ordered surgeries to be delayed.
The increase in Illinois has been less dramatic, as the IDPH reported 7,569 new confirmed and probable cases as well as 139 additional deaths Wednesday.
While the state has seen a rise in the number of cases reported on average since December 29, the 7-day average remained around 6,200 for a second day Wednesday.
Pritzker said after January 15, which is one “incubation period” after New Year’s Day, regions that meet state criteria can move to less-restrictive mitigations. As of Wednesday a majority of regions meet the criteria for moving to “Tier 2,” including the City of Chicago and greater Cook County.
“My prayer for the new year is everyone stays healthy and all of our regions move in the right direction,” Pritzker said.
As vaccination efforts continue across the world, Pritzker said Illinois will tap the national guard to assist with logistics as well as set up vaccination centers at stadiums and other locations across the state.
Pritzker said as of Wednesday, Illinois has received 344,525 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Of those, 207,106 total doses have been administered to date.
Additionally, Pritzker said 114,075 doses were set aside for a federal program to vaccinate long-term care residents and staff run by Walgreens and CVS which began on December 28.
Moving forward, he said the state will receive 120,000 doses per week, including 60,000 each of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. About a third will be set aside for CVS and Walgreens.
The totals do not include figures for Chicago, which receives doses directly from the federal government.
Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot continued her criticism of the pace of the vaccine rollout. The mayor tweeted the City received 63,375 doses two weeks ago, 37,650 doses last week and 32,575 doses this week.
“Healthcare workers have stepped up for us; Feds must step up for them and deliver on their promises,” Lightfoot tweeted. “The vaccine is giving people hope for the first time in a long time. We have to deliver and not shatter that hope.”