This story was updated Friday, Dec 11.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday, Dec. 11 praised a U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision to recommend approval of a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer.
Following approval by a panel of directors earlier in the day, the FDA on Friday evening granted Pfizer emergency use authorization of its vaccine.
“Our own review panel is poised to review all available FDA data, and based on all information to date the team is optimistic that this vaccine can safely move forward,” Pritzker said Friday afternoon.
The FDA’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will then meet to offer advice as to how the vaccine should be distributed in future rounds within the population.
“Federal officials have told us that these first doses will be shipped out to states within 24 hours of approval and Illinois is prepared to quickly get this vaccine to our frontline health care workforce,” Pritzker said.
Health care workers and long-term care residents will be prioritized to receive the initial doses, per the state’s vaccine plan.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike stated earlier in the week that she has faith in the vaccine.
“I do trust in vaccines. I trust in the development and approval system that has been created in this country, and from what is known, the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine has been evaluated appropriately,” she said on Dec. 10.
Ezike stressed it is important for public health officials to dispel rumors about the vaccine.
“I think more people than not are interested in getting this vaccine, and the job of the Public Health Department, of the government, is to ensure that everyone has the adequate information with which to make the best choice for themselves and their families,” she said. “So it’s not going to be about coercing anyone. It’s about communicating with everyone, making sure they have the right facts to make the best decision.”
Ezike said Federally Qualified Health Centers, state-run testing sites and other places will distribute the vaccines in an effort to make them available to all who want them.
“We also are going to be having mass vaccination drives in parking lots, in malls, you know, we’re going to use our community-based testing sites to try — as well as testing — to be able to have a line where you can have vaccination once it’s readily available,” she said.
Pritzker has said once the vaccine received approval it could be available to health care workers in certain counties as early as this week.
Nursing home patients are also at the head of the line.
After that, more vulnerable populations could get the vaccine before its availability to the general public, which is expected to be several months away.
Ezike said every dose of the vaccine will be logged in a registry system which will show if there are communities that have been underserved.
Although the state of Illinois is having its own independent team review the data, Pritzker said on Dec. 8 the vaccine appears to be effective in 95 percent of the people who receive it, and in 94 percent of people over age 65.
“Illinois will only distribute a vaccine that is deemed safe, and we are one of many states that have established additional review panels, including Indiana, California, New York, West Virginia and Michigan,” Pritzker said. “Our Illinois team is already poring over the analysis released by the FDA on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this morning.”
The drug company Moderna has also applied for Emergency Use Authorization for a vaccine it is developing.
Bonnie Blue, 68, of Chicago, who has suffered from severe asthma much of her life, was among the people who took part in clinical trials of that vaccine. She spoke at the Dec. 8 briefing to encourage everyone to get the vaccine once it becomes available.
“For a person who has been on life support so many times, for me to take part in this trial was a huge risk, a risk that my family and friends were not happy that I was taking,” she said. “But I am here. I’m fine. I did not have horrible side effects from anything.”
IDPH reported another 11,101 new confirmed or probable cases Thursday, Dec. 10 out of 114,503 test results reported. That made for a one-day positivity rate of 9.5 percent, which brought the seven-day rolling average case positivity rate to 9.5 percent, a decrease of one-tenth of a percentage point from the day prior.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have leveled as well, although available bed capacity remains near pandemic lows. As of Wednesday night Dec. 9, there were 5,138 people hospitalized in Illinois for COVID-19, a decrease of 146 from the day prior. That left about 24.6 percent of beds available.
COVID-19 patients occupied 1,081 intensive care unit beds at the end of Wednesday, a decrease from the day prior, leaving 615 staffable ICU beds available statewide for a capacity of 18.5 percent.
There were 606 ventilators in use by COVID-19 patients, also a decrease from the day prior, leaving about 70 percent of ventilators available.
Regionally, positivity rates ranged from 10.1 percent in Region 3 which includes the Springfield area and several surrounding counties, to 15.2 in Region 4, which includes the Metro East region on the Missouri border.