COVID Illinois Update: IL reports 1,324 new cases, 10 deaths

UIC participating in variant-targeted vaccine trial
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois reported 1,324 new COVID cases and 10 related deaths Wednesday, one day after the FDA authorized a second booster shot for adults 50 and older.

IDPH notes that "daily deaths reported on weekends and at the beginning of the week may be low as IDPH and local health departments move away from reviewing and processing COVID-19 death records over the weekend. Those deaths will be captured in subsequent days."

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Dr. Michael Hoffman, with Cook County Health, talks about the decision to authorize a second booster shot for some adults.

There have been at least 3,066,645 total COVID cases, including at least 33,358 related deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 1.7%, which is unchanged from yesterday.

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 83,478 new specimens for a total of 57,205,465 since the pandemic began.

As of Tuesday night, 470 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 64 patients were in the ICU, and 27 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 21,347,013 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Monday, and 64.33% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 7,028.

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Variant-targeted vaccines are the next phase in fighting COVID-19, and the University of Illinois - Chicago is among several places nationwide taking part in a new vaccine trial involving Moderna.

UIC has played a major role in COVID vaccine trials as dozens of volunteers participated in studies for the original Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. UIC is being tapped again as one of 24 sites nationwide to evaluate Moderna boosters specific to various variants.

"We are going to be testing a variety of variant vaccines against beta, delta and omicron variants and various combinations with the original vaccine," UIC Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Richard Novak said.

The idea of the study is to determine the best strategy to protect people against future variants.

"The variants will probably be related to the most recent variants that are circulating," Novak said, "and so hopefully these variant vaccines will provide better immunity against the next variants that are coming."

While 600 people will be enrolled nationwide, UIC is looking for 40 volunteers: half over 65 years old, and half who have already had COVID. All participants must have already received the primary COVID vaccination series and a booster.

"Some will get mixtures of the beta variant, some will get beta variant plus omicron some will get a mixture of delta with Omicron," Novak explained.

If variant vaccines prove to provide more protection than the original vaccines, drug manufacturers may adjust their prototypes every year, similar to how they update the flu vaccine.

However, experts say predicting when new COVID variants will emerge and how dangerous they will be remains a challenge. But doctors say it helps that the level of immunity is high because of vaccines and infection.

"That immunity may play a role in selecting that next variant, because variants only emerge if they can evade an immune response," Novak said.

UIC is hoping to begin enrolling volunteers for its trial before the end of the week. In the meantime, the FDA is meeting next week to discuss the future of booster doses.
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