Illinois COVID Vaccine: IL expands vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and up; Chicago not included in expansion

United Center to switch to Johnson & Johnson vaccine starting April 20
DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois has expanded COVID vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 and older Monday, although the expansion does not include Chicago.

Illinois is opening up another 150,000 appointments at 11 state-run mass vaccination sites this week.

"This is a wonderful change for everybody," said Steve Brandy with the Will County Health Department.

The expansion in eligibility is for now only taking place outside of Chicago. The city will not follow suit until April 19, which is the deadline the Biden administration has set to make vaccines available to all adults. Chicago residents are eligible to get vaccinated at suburban locations.

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Dr. Robert Citronberg with Advocate Aurora Health answers COVID-19 vaccine questions.

However, many of those sites, like the Lake County, Illinois fairgrounds, are waiting for more shipments of the vaccine.

The mass vaccination site had to make a few changes as more people became eligible Monday.

"The next few weeks are not good for Lake County, or for other counties, because the amount of vaccine is going to decrease because of the issues with Johnson and Johnson," said Mark Pfister with the Lake County Health Department.

The site changed from a drive-thru to a walk-in site.

"We had to drive the cars around and around, but this was much faster. Indoors and easier," said Lake County resident Lois Wertschnig, who got her second dose Monday.

The change is allowing them to vaccinate more people at a quicker pace.

'[It] went well," said fellow Lake County resident, Allen Wu. "Very organized."

For others, it's been a long wait.

"I'm still a student, so I'll be coming into school a little later today, but I'll be there," said Andrew High School senior Laurel Miskovic.

Miskovic, 18, drove from her home in Tinley Park to the Des Plaines super site to get her first dose of the vaccine.

"We are probably about two months ahead of schedule where we thought we would be able to open up vaccinations to everybody 16 and older," said Dr. Robert Citronberg with Advocate Aurora Health. "This is great. A lot of appointments becoming available in the next two weeks. It should be much easier for people to get their vaccines."

The expansion does come with a bit of a hiccup. Production problems at a Johnson & Johnson plant elsewhere, have led to a massive drop, of nearly 90% in the supply of J&J vaccines that the city and state will receive this week.

As if getting an appointment weren't already hard enough.

"It was very stressful trying to get an appointment at first and kind of felt like, just a futile refreshing, refreshing, refreshing, but it's really nice to have it done now and settled," said Nathan Edwards, who was getting his second shot Monday.

For those already halfway there, however, it was all worth it.

"I just want to keep my parents and my grandparents protected and everyone else in the community obviously," Miskovic said. "A lot of my friends are split on the issue. Do I want it? Do I not want it? But I thought it was really important to get it as soon as I can."

Right now, Lake County is on track to vaccinate 75% of residents who are 65 and older.

Officials believe the majority of the new cases are coming from people 18 to 29 years old.

"A lot more cases in those that play sports," Pfister said. "Those are locations where they are getting too close to each other and not masking."

This month, Lake County will open up a mass vaccination site at this old K-Mart in Round Lake Beach.

"We have other sites in Lake County that are ready to open but we just do not have the vaccine yet," Pfister added.

In Will County, where nearly 20% of residents are vaccianted, health officials said hundreds more appointments plan to open as early at Tuesday.

"When we have our huge expansion at the National Guard clinic over at the old Toys-R-Us building [Tuesday]. They can start taking 2,050 appointments per day," Brandy said.

For parents hoping to get their 16 and 17-year-olds vaccinated, only the Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for people under 18.

Officials are encouraging people to hit the road to find an open appointment and recommend returning to the same site for their second dose.

United Center to switch to Johnson & Johnson vaccine starting April 20

The United Center mass vaccination site will switch to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine soon, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The mayor's office announced that all walk-in appointments starting April 20 will get J&J.

The Chicago Department of Public Health reported high demand from residents for the single-dose shot.

Anyone seeking an appointment can check availability starting April 12 via Zocdoc, or by calling the city's COVID Help Line at (312)-746-4835. Appointments are expected to be in high demand and people are encouraged to check back frequently, according to officials.

The United Center drive-thru will continue to administer second doses of Pfizer for people who already received their first dose at the mass vaccination site since it opened in early March, according to the announcement.
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