Illinois to expand vaccine rollout to residents with pre-existing conditions on Feb. 25

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Daily file illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

Recently operational United Center mass vaccination site has temporarily stopped accepting appointments from suburban Cook County residents.

Andrew Myers, Reporter

Illinois will expand vaccine eligibility under Phase 1B to include people with underlying health conditions and comorbidities, such as cancer and diabetes, on Feb. 25.

“Illinois is moving forward in accordance with guidance from the CDC to expand our eligible population as supply allows, getting us closer to the point when the vaccine is widely available to all who want it,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement.

Starting Feb. 25, any municipality which has substantially vaccinated eligible residents, can begin to vaccinate anyone aged 16 and older with a pre-existing condition, as defined by the state. Phase 1B currently includes essential frontline workers and seniors.

Even though counties and cities in Illinois are able to expand vaccine access, limited vaccine supplies may restrict the scope of the vaccinate distribution.

In a recent email to Evanston residents, Mayor Steve Hagerty said the city does not anticipate it will have the capacity to vaccinate people with pre-existing conditions under the age of 65 at this time. According to the email, the city still has a large senior population yet to receive the vaccine.

Qualified residents are able to schedule vaccination appointments through pharmacies, their employer or a “trusted source.” Illinois residents can get vaccinated at Walgreens, which is a part of a new federal vaccination effort to send vaccines directly to pharmacies, as well as Jewel Osco, CVS, Mariano’s, Walmart, Kroger and Meijer.

Cook County and the City of Chicago also announced they would not be expanding Phase 1B access on Feb. 25. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said they still have yet to vaccinate enough people currently eligible.

There has been a drop in COVID-19 cases across the state in the past month. On Feb. 14, health officials reported 1,631 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus, the lowest total since October of last year.

However, the first case of a coronavirus variant, B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa, was reported in Illinois last week. This variant is more contagious and has been proven to render vaccines less effective.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health officials are concerned COVID-19 variants could lead to another spike in cases.

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