COVID vaccine: IL, IN to expand vaccination eligibility to more essential workers, vulnerable Hoosier communities

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A big expansion in COVID-19 vaccine eligibility is coming Monday in both Illinois and Indiana.

The search for vaccines has not been easy for all, but with more doses coming into both states, more people will be able to get their shots.

In less than 24 hours, higher education staff, government workers and media will be eligible for vaccines at more than 900 locations across the state.

"Its persistence and it's above all, patience," said "vaccine hunter" Maria K. "There's a lot of frustration."

SEE ALSO | Chicago Phase 1C vaccine start date set for March 29
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Chicago will move into Phase 1C for vaccinations on March 29, with appointments set to be available to more essential workers and residents with health conditions.



River Forest resident, Maria K, has been spending the past month helping others navigate multiple websites to connect Chicago area residents with COVID vaccines.

"It started with my journey to try to get vaccines for family members of mine that were already qualifying and I started realizing how much people were suffering to get these vaccines," she said.

So far, she's helped more than 160 people, some without computer access, get vaccine appointments.

However, Monday, the pool of people she continues to help will get wider as the state opens up eligibility to more residents.

"By the nature of their very jobs are at higher risk of exposure and thereby higher risk of contracting COVID-19," said Dr. Kiran Joshi, senior medical officer at Cook County Department of Public Health. "So it only makes sense to start to get more and more groups of them vaccinated as soon as possible."

WATCH | Who is eligible in Chicago's Phase 1C?
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In 1C, more essential workers are eligible, including those in hospitality, construction, law, banking and media, as are Chicagoans 16 to 64 with serious health conditions.



This comes as Indiana also prepares to expand vaccine eligibility in the Hoosier State to residents between the ages 40 to 44.

The City of Gary is also looking to expand vaccination programs to those most vulnerable.

"Now that we have Johnson and Johnson we have some programs we're going to Gary Housing Authority Buildings," said Roland Walker, health commissioner for the City of Gary. "We're also targeting our homeless population and I think that's really going to see our percentages go up."

This weekend, Gary health officials hosted a mass vaccination event where more than 2000 people were vaccinated, including the city's mayor.

SEE ALSO | Local health experts answer your COVID-19 vaccine questions



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CDPH Medical Director Janna Kerins and the Lake County Health Dept.'s Dr. Sana Ahmed answer your most pressing COVID-19 vaccine questions.



The challenge ahead will still be the demand versus the supply, but so far, health officials said the road ahead is still pointed to recovery.

"I just feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter here. We're at a point where more than 20% of individuals who are residents of suburban Cook County had at least one dose of vaccine," Dr. Joshi said. As a public health physician, that brings joy to my heart and I just - I would want to see that number increase."

Suburban Cook County also moves into phase 1B+ Monday, meaning people 16 years and older with underlying health conditions can sign up for vaccine appointments.

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Governor Pritzker announces a new phase in his reopening plan as well as expanding vaccine eligibility to everyone over 16 on April 12.



For the latest COVID-19 vaccination information in suburban Cook County, cookcountypublichealth.org. To register to receive an appointment, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.

The communities include Bellwood, Berkeley, Berwyn, Blue Island, Bridgeview, Burnham, Calumet City, Calumet Park, Chicago Heights, Chicago Ridge, Cicero, Dixmoor, Dolton, Franklin Park, Harvey, Harwood Heights, Hodgkins, Justice, McCook, Markham, Maywood, Melrose Park, Merrionette Park, Norridge, Northlake, Posen, Riverdale, Robbins, South Chicago Heights, South Holland, Stone Park and Summit.

In DuPage and Kane counties, new mass vaccination sites are being launched. Site surveys are currently underway in multiple jurisdictions to identify locations suitable for vaccination clinics that will open to the public in the coming weeks.
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