With the expectation of a ready vaccine still some time away, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday that he wants his own team of experts to evaluate any potential COVID-19 vaccine before distributing it around the state.
The Democratic governor accused President Donald Trump of politicizing the federal agencies tasked with containing the virus, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As you’ve seen, President Trump has been pushing for a date certain by which he’d want to deliver a vaccine and that’s just not how it works,” Pritzker said at a news conference. “You don’t set a date for a vaccine delivery. You work and work and work until you know that you’ve got something safe and then you distribute it so yes, it’s obviously a direct result of the concerns that are raised by President Trump’s behavior.”
Pritzker, who has frequently clashed with Trump, follows California, New York, Michigan and other states that have also claimed they want to independently vet any potential vaccine.
He said Illinois has the experts and qualifications needed to make an independent recommendation to him as to whether it is safe and effective.
“Illinois, like California, like other very large states, has major hospital and medical capability and researchers and scientists and so yes, we are independently going to be looking at and ensuring that whatever it is we distribute in the state will be safe,” he said.
COVID-19 cases in the state and around the Midwest have risen sharply in recent weeks. On Wednesday, health officials announced another 69 people have died of COVID-19, the highest daily death tally in the state since mid-June. And 4,342 new cases of the coronavirus were reported in the past day. Since the start of the pandemic, 9,345 deaths have been attributed to the virus.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois’ public health director, said she was aware of at least three vaccines still undergoing trials, but that each vaccine will present challenges to the state for storage and distribution. Pritzker and Ezike said preparations are underway to communicate with local health departments around the state about a vaccine.
Ezike said that while a vaccine will not be mandatory, the state will prioritize who receives it. Health care workers and vulnerable populations hit hardest by the virus will be among the first to receive a vaccine, she said.
Ezike also said she anticipated the vaccine will be free, though some health care providers may charge a fee for giving it out which she expected insurance companies to cover.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.