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The first doses of the Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could arrive as early as Sunday, Dec. 13, in Illinois, with Moderna’s vaccine expected to be distributed a week later. 

Nursing homes residents and healthcare workers will be the first groups to receive doses in Phase 1a, according to directives from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  There are 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million long-term care residents in the U.S. Illinois has 665,000 healthcare workers and 109,000 nursing home residents. 

Both vaccines require two doses for effectiveness: three weeks apart for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks apart for the Moderna vaccine. 

The State will receive 109,000 doses from the first batch of vaccines and is allocating 86,000 of these early doses to counties with the highest fatality rate per capita. Suburban Cook County has been identified as one of these 50 priority counties. 

Presumably, Evanston will be one of the early vaccine recipients. Evanston’s fatality rate, 119 fatalities per 100,000 people, is higher than the State average of 105.  Evanston’s case fatality rate of 3.4% (deaths divided by total diagnosed cases), is slightly higher than Suburban Cook County average of 3.1%. 

NorthShore University Health System’s Highland Park Hospital is one of the 10 hospitals designated by the State to serve as a regional storage site and distribution hub for the vaccine. NorthShore has ultra-cold freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine, which requires storage at temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius. The Moderna vaccine does not require unusually cold temperatures and can be stored in a standard freezer.  

Local public health departments will determine the quantity of the vaccine each hospital receives, said Jeff Thiel, NorthShore’s assistant vice president of pharmacy. NorthShore does not know how many doses each hospital in the region will receive and will not be in charge of vaccinating staff at other hospitals. The federal government has contracted with Walgreens and CVS to vaccinate people in nursing homes.

Governor J.B. Pritzker stated during his press conference on Friday that “most all of the state’s 96 public health departments have submitted their plan for distributing the vaccine; only eight have not.” 

Evanston’s Health Department has submitted a plan for review with “some sections of the plan still to be addressed as more information reaches us regarding the vaccine,” stated Ike Ogbo, the City’s Director of Health and Human Services. 

Plans for subsequent dose allocations have not been finalized. Proposals being reviewed by ACIP include those for “essential workers” such as school staff, police, grocery workers, and mass-transit workers in Phase 1b and adults older than 65 and adults of any age who have high-risk medical conditions in Phase 1c.  

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the first two vaccines to be reviewed by the FDA.  There are currently 61 vaccines in human trials, with 13 vaccines in Phase 3, large-scale trials testing safety and efficacy.

Ultimately, there will be mass vaccination drives, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health during the Dec. 8 press conference. “People will go to their doctor’s offices, churches, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, local health departments … There will be many different opportunities to get the vaccine,” she said.  

Note: Dates above are contingent on FDA’s granting emergency use authorization on Dec. 10 for Pfizer Vaccine and Dec. 17 for Moderna vaccine.

See below for population statistics for groups in Illinois.

Group                                     Population

Healthcare workers               665,000

Long-term care residents     109,000

First Responders                    67,000

People with health risks     3,800,000

Other elderly                         249,000

Essential workers                  416,000

Teachers                                261,000

Homeless                                 27,000

Prisoners                                  14,000

Young Adults                        1,600,000

Children                                2,900,000

Source: Population data from “Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line”, Stuart A.  Thompson, New York Times.