By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County officials on Wednesday opened coronavirus vaccine availability to all essential workers who did not already qualify for a shot, while also announcing 8,000 new appointments for first-dose vaccinations would be available Wednesday evening.

The Cook County Department of Public Health said it was beginning Phase 1C of the vaccination plan on Wednesday, making shots available to more essential workers – including clergy, restaurant staff, legal workers, hotel workers, construction trade workers, hairdressers, retail staff, higher education workers, media, transportation and logistics workers, utility workers, manufacturers, residential and shelter facilities, financial services, and defense-related activities.

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That adds up to about 100,000 people in the Cook County suburbs.

“This will expand on our equitable distribution of vaccine and build on the progress we’ve made in earlier phases of our program,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement.

Before beginning Phase 1C, those eligible for vaccines included healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, frontline essential workers (such as first responders, grocery store workers, K-12 teachers, and more), seniors age 65 and older, and people age 16 and older who have certain medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

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Phase 1C is the penultimate step in the vaccination program, before shots are made available to anyone age 16 and older. Gov. JB Pritzker has authorized every county public health department to begin giving shots to anyone 16 and older at their discretion, but suburban Cook County and city of Chicago officials have yet to say when they will move to that final phase of vaccinations. President Joe Biden has said he wants every state to do so by May 1.

An estimated 1 million residents in the Cook County suburbs currently qualify for shots, and the county has administered approximately 350,000 total doses of vaccine so far.

“We are making great progress in our vaccinations: over 25 percent of all residents in suburban Cook County and more than 80 percent of those age 65 and older have received at least one dose,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Senior Medical Officer and Co-Lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health. “We are building an impressive county-wide system to administer vaccines to as many of our 2.5 million residents who want one and will be able to equitably and efficiently administer them if the vaccine supply can match the demand.”

Meantime, beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Cook County officials will release more than 8,000 new appointments for vaccines, citing a delay in vaccine shipments.

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Appointments can be made at, or by calling 833-308-1988. The call center will remain open until 10 p.m. on Wednesday to accommodate for the latest release of appointments.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff