CHICAGO — Illinois on Wednesday recorded its highest daily coronavirus-related death toll since June as state officials released an early version of its plan for how a vaccine will be distributed once one is approved and available.
The plan "is designed to provide an equitable distribution across the state with priority access going to our most vulnerable populations, front-line health care workers and first responders who directly interact with and treat COVID patients, as well as staff and residents in long-term care facilities," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during his daily coronavirus news briefing.
The plan will "evolve as vaccine trials come to a conclusion and the FDA decides which to approve," Pritzker said, noting that there are a range of unknowns around whether vaccinations will require multiple doses and if they will need cold or room temperature storage.
While President Donald Trump has vowed that a vaccination could be available soon, most experts think that won't happen until next year, a point backed up on Wednesday by Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
"Vaccinations, once they arrive, will take many, many months, at the minimum, to actually get into the arms of the people of Illinois," Ezike said. "So this will unfold in phases, with initially only a small amount of vaccine available, and as production ramps up, more individuals will be able to avail themselves of this countermeasure."
Once a vaccine is available, the state will build off its existing vaccine registry system that tracks immunizations for children, to track the geographic distribution of vaccines. "And that can help us further direct the traffic of future vaccine to come, if we see that a region that has been hardest hit by the virus and they have a lower percentage of people who have gotten immunized," Ezike said.
Chicago would get its own distribution of the vaccine directly from the CDC under the plan.
COVID-19 vaccinations will not be mandated, though officials will also work to address "vaccine hesitancy," Ezike said, noting "people who may need it most might have the reason to be most hesitant, and so we're going to have to work with communities to address issues, to notify, to educate, to have their questions answered."
"Illinois will not distribute a vaccine until we have one that is proven safe and effective," Pritzker said.
The state on Wednesday reported 69 deaths of people with COVID-19 over a 24-hour period on Wednesday, bringing the state-reported death toll to 9,345 people in Illinois since the pandemic began. The last time the statewide death toll for a single day surpassed 60 was June 24, when the number of deaths reported was 64.