Every local public health agency in Illinois can now choose to expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone age 16 and older, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The state recently announced that it would open vaccination eligibility to anyone 16 and older beginning April 12.
However, due to unfulfilled appointments and an expected increase in vaccine supply, the state is now allowing each local health department in the state to choose who is eligible for the vaccine, depending on their own supply and demand.
“The number one goal for the state is to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly and safely as possible, in order to stay ahead of variants,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of IDPH, said in a statement. “This shift is similar to what we saw when expanding vaccine eligibility from Phase 1B to Phase 1B+, where some parts of the state were ready to move forward while others were not. Each county is different, and local health departments know better how to vaccinate people in their communities as soon as and as equitably as possible.”
That means local health departments across Illinois can choose to vaccinate anyone over 16 at their discretion, effective immediately. That expansion will apply to the entire state automatically starting April 12.
The City of Chicago, which receives its own vaccine supply separate from the state, reiterated on Friday that it is expanding eligibility beginning Monday to all essential workers and anyone with underlying medical conditions. The city does not appear to be expanding eligibility to anyone who is 16 and older.
The announcement allowing local health departments to vaccinate broader groups of people comes as the state has seen an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the past week. The state also is expecting to receive one million doses of vaccine next week — an all-time high for Illinois to date.
In addition to granting the ability to expand eligibility, the state also is deploying a mobile team of people to five counties in Region 1 to administer Johnson & Johnson vaccines across Northern Illinois, from DeKalb and Rockford to the Mississippi River. Those five counties are: Carroll, Ogle, Boone, Lee and Whiteside.
The change in policy comes as Illinois is approaching its first metric for opening up more of the state’s economy and expanding capacity in public places.
Earlier this month, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that capacity for in-person gatherings could be increased once 70% of the state’s seniors are vaccinated and there is no spike in cases for 28 days. The state is expecting to see 70% of seniors vaccinated in the coming days, but coronavirus cases have been steadily on the rise in Chicago, Cook County, and Region 1.
Since last week, Chicago’s daily case rate has increased by nearly 50% and suburban Cook County has seen its daily case rate increase by more than 40%, according to the state’s health department.
In the past 24 hours, there were 3,002 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 33 deaths.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.