CHICAGO (CBS) — With the first vaccine for COVID-19 on pace for approval as early as next week, Gov. JB Pritzker said Friday the state is expecting 109,000 does of the Pfizer vaccine in its first shipment.
An FDA advisory committee will review the Pfizer vaccine on December 10, and Pritzker said if it is approved for distribution, Illinois is expecting to receive its first round of doses the following week.
The city of Chicago will get its own delivery of approximately 23,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while the rest of Illinois will get approximately 86,000 doses.
“There will be shipments of more and more vaccine each week following that first shipment’s arrival. So, although the numbers now may seem relatively small in comparison to our population, those numbers will increase over the subsequent weeks and months,” Pritzker said.
While the Pfizer vaccine is treatment that must be given in two doses three weeks apart, the governor has said because additional shipments are expected soon after the first delivery, those initial 109,000 doses won’t necessarily have to be set aside for only 54,500 people.
A final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of Pfizer’s vaccine shoed it to be 95% effective. Moderna, which is the second company to submit a vaccine for FDA approval, has said trials show its vaccine is 94% effective.
“All signs to date are astoundingly promising. Never before have we seen an early vaccine study, like the studies that have come out for these vaccines, of this scale that have demonstrated such high levels of protection,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said Illinois has established its own review panel to quickly verify the safety of any vaccines authorized by the FDA before the state begins distributing them.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that health care workers and long-term care facility residents should be the first Americans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The goal here is to fortify the healthcare workforce by removing these most exposed workers from the cycle of quarantine, illness, and infection; as well as protecting our most vulnerable residents,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said the city of Chicago will be responsible for its own distribution plan for the doses it gets. For the rest of the state, the governor said the first round of vaccines will be distributed to the 50 counties with highest COVID-19 death rates per capita.
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the initial shipment of vaccines will go directly to the state’s stockpile, and then be delivered to 10 hospitals that will serve as regional distribution centers for local health departments in those 50 counties. Local health departments will then work with hospitals to identify high-risk and critical healthcare workers for initial vaccine distribution. The state is also partnering with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to help provide vaccines at long-term care facilities.
The state has purchased 20 ultra-cold freezers to help store the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at -70° Celsius, in freezers which shouldn’t be opened more than twice a day for no more than a minute at a time. Once thawed, the vaccine can be stored at a typical refrigerator temperature for about five days before it must be administered to a patient.
Ezike also said the state will track vaccine shipments, allocations, and data to detect any disparities in distribution.
Pritzker noted approximately 650,000 people in Illinois qualify as frontline healthcare workers eligible for the first round of the vaccine, while approximately 110,000 adults in Illinois live in long-term care facilities. After the vaccine is distributed to that first priority group, state officials expect the second priority group will include frontline first-responders, people over the age of 65, and anyone with multiple high-risk medical conditions. That means it could take months just to distribute vaccines to the first two priority groups.
“This will not be a quick process. With the two-dose timeline, no single person will be fully vaccinated even by Christmas, and it will likely be months before people with low-risk factors for COVID-19 see their first dose,” Pritzker said.
As for safety concerns given the speed with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, Pritzker said researchers have been laying the groundwork for years by evaluating other types of coronaviruses, allowing pharmaceutical companies to move quickly to develop the COVID-19 vaccines.
Pritzker also said he’s willing to get the vaccine in public at one of his regular coronavirus briefings, but only when he’s eligible to receive one, vowing he won’t jump the line to get a vaccine.
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