Illinois is now expecting to receive about half as much of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine next week as was originally promised by the federal government, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday.
Originally, the federal government had projected to ship about nearly 8 million doses of the vaccine to states next week with another 8.8 million doses the week after that. That number has now been cut in half.
“I now no longer believe projections that are put in front of us by the federal government,” Pritzker said. “Having said that, we’re hopeful that they’re accurate.”
Pritzker has long said that the federal government’s estimates for how many vaccines would be available are constantly shifting, and he’s frequently been hesitant to talk to the news media about numbers.
The governor has offered criticism of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Wednesday he held back on his frustrations over the federal administration’s handling of dispersing approved vaccines to the states.
“I don’t want to express frustration with this. Pfizer no doubt is manufacturing as fast as they can, as safely as they can to make sure that we have safe vaccines for us to distribute,” Pritzker said. “This is a massive logistics operation.”
Pritzker said part of the difficulty is distributing a Pfizer vaccine that must be used within five days after being removed from its unique, cold storage container. The Moderna vaccine, in the meantime, can be used 30 days after it’s removed from its storage container, Pritzker said. The federal government could authorize the Moderna vaccine for emergency use as soon as this week.
The reduction in vaccine estimates doesn’t affect the doses Illinois got or will get this week, the governor said. Health care workers in Chicago and across Illinois began on Tuesday to receive the 109,000 inoculations that have been allocated for the state.
But Illinois has a long way to go to get through just health care workers, the first category to get the vaccinations, with more than 655,000 estimated workers in the state.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who leads the state’s public health department, said that residents of long term care facilities are scheduled to start receiving vaccines the final week of December.
This comes as another 7,123 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed across Illinois on Wednesday, including 146 deaths. Hospitalizations related to the virus, however, continue to decline.
Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.