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Illinois Vaccine Rollout Will Remain Slow For Now

A nurse holds a needle with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, Illinois.
File Photo / Derik Holtmann
Belleville News-Democrat
A nurse holds a needle with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, Illinois. It will likely take many months for Illinois' general public to start to be vaccinated, according to the state's top doctor.

Illinois’ rollout of the coronavirus vaccine will continue to be slow for the foreseeable future, the state’s top doctor said at a virtual town hall event Tuesday.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said it will be months before most residents start getting vaccinated.

“I mean many months,” she said. “That’s not good news, but that’s the truth.”

On Monday, the state expanded who’s eligible for the vaccine to include people over 65, first responders, transit workers, postal workers and a slew of other front-line workers.

“That number for Illinois is 3 million people, that’s not a small bunch,” Ezike said. “And I got the allocation today from the CDC for how many doses we get (now) for Illinois: 126,000.”

She implored people who are newly eligible for the coronavirus vaccine to remain patient as they wait to be inoculated.

“Yes, it’s your turn,” Ezike said. “But it may not be this week, next week, next month, even another month. And that’s for people who are, quote, prioritized.”

The public health director also fielded questions submitted by residents about the new vaccines, including whether someone should be vaccinated if they’ve already been infected with the coronavirus.

Ezike said people who’ve tested positive should still be vaccinated, even though few people have been re-infected with the coronavirus over the course of the pandemic.

“We think that immunity lasts for a while [but] we’re not sure exactly,” she said. “The CDC is saying wait at least 90 days from when you were diagnosed or recovered from COVID because you probably still have antibodies.”

She also addressed how Illinois is working to increase vaccination rates in Black and brown communities, where some residents are more skeptical of the new vaccines, because of previous negative experiences with government health programs.

Ezike said that includes enlisting trusted voices in specific communities to increase the reach of state health department messaging.

“We’re trying to bring an array of people with different backgrounds, so that they can share within their own sphere as we give them information from IDPH and important links and infographics,” she said. “It’s not just the message, but also the messenger. People need to have people that they already trust.”

Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid

Eric Schmid covers business and economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.

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