As of Friday, roughly 960,000 Illinois residence have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 Vaccine— and about 270,000 of them have received both shots. But the state’s pace has ranked in the bottom third of the country for residents vaccinated when adjusted for population sizes.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has pointed to different metrics to argue the state is doing relatively well at vaccinating people. Illinois officials have blamed rollout frustrations on scarce supplies and poor planning by the Trump administration. “To accelerate immunizations, we need our federal partners to align their efforts with ours, to help solve practical operational issues,” the state’s health director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, testified at a virtual congressional hearing Tuesday.
At that same congressional hearing, a West Virginia Republican noted Illinois had used up less than 60% of vaccine it had received, compared with his home state, which had used up more than 80% by then. Let the fingerpointing continue.
“Look, Operation Warp Speed created the vaccine. It’s the job of the states to put it in people’s arms. And it seems that (some) states can’t even get that right,” said U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley.
There are some facts that add to the state’s position in the country’s rollout.
- Illinois officials were late to try to hire outside experts to manage the rollout, then abandoned that effort to assemble their own team just weeks before the first doses showed up.
- The state opened up shots to roughly a fourth of all residents, who qualified because of their ages or professions, then let a largely decentralized system figure out who’d be targeted and how fast to administer shots.
- There are no agreed-upon rules for what counts as successful. The state and Chicago each get shots to distribute, and they measure things differently.
- Some local health departments have been allowed to build up sizable inventories while others did their best to inject shots in arms as quickly as they arrived.
Gov J.B. Pritzker gives a news briefing Jan. 27, 2021, at the drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site set up inside of the Lake County Fairgrounds. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
While some medical providers have begun reaching out to patients, many illinois Covid-19 vaccine seekers are often forced to make longshot cold calls to lists of places they’ve heard might have shots, or stalk websites that flash openings so briefly that those searching for them compare the hunt to the kill-or-be-killed plot of “The Hunger Games” books and movies.
Unfortunately, the state entered the pandemic with an already strained public health bureaucracy and already drained state budget. Researchers said that gave Illinois little room to adjust to a massive logistical headache by the federal government. But at the same time, they say, there’s no excuse for failing to fix resulting problems.
“Every day that a dose of vaccine is not in somebody’s arm is a day that person is exposed to COVID,” said Hani Mahmassani, who directs Northwestern University’s Transportation Center and has been commissioned by the National Science Foundation to help study logistical woes from the rollout.
Just how bad is Illinois?
On a tour of a Champaign vaccination site Wednesday, Pritzker praised the state’s mass vaccination effort. “We’re actually doing quite well,” he said. “We’re reaching new heights. I just announced a record today. We had I think three record days or four record days last week.”