Gov. Pritzker announces thousands of new vaccine appointments next week

Illinois health officials announced 3,739 new cases of COVID-19 and 34 related deaths Thursday.

Video Transcript

JAY PRITZKER: Well, good morning, everyone. And thank you all very much for joining us this morning here in Forest Park, as Illinois sits on the precipice of opening COVID-19 vaccination appointments to all residents 16 years of age and over. Let me also welcome the Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. NGozi Ezike, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha, Kane County board chair Corinne Pierog and Representative LaShawn Ford, all of whom have played a critical role in our all-hands-on-deck COVID-19 vaccination effort.

I also want to thank Mayor Hoskins for hosting us here in Forest Park and for his welcoming this vaccination center, which we opened not too long ago-- and now we're vaccinating thousands more than we were even at the very beginning of this facility. Folks, I'd like to ask us all to take a moment to think back to where we were just one year ago. On April 8, 2020, 14,700 people in the United States had died from COVID-19, about 500 Illinoisans among them.

The vast majority of states of every political stripe had implemented a stay-at-home order. Americans were banging pots and pans at dusk in gratitude for our healthcare heroes, hanging signs of love in nursing home windows, volunteering to deliver groceries for those most vulnerable. We showed up for one another.

And experts the world over said it would be perhaps overly optimistic for us to see a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 even perhaps 18 months later. But the science has been there all along, waiting for the right disease to battle. The vaccines work. And they're saving lives, and they're protecting those who get vaccinated. The researchers and doctors met the moment, and we are grateful.

Today, about one year from the beginning of the pandemic, the state of Illinois alone has administered over 6.7 million doses of vaccine. 73% of our seniors and 42% of our 16-and-over population has had at least one dose. 25% of our adult population has been fully vaccinated. And as of this morning, I'm told that we're on track to break a statewide single-day vaccination record. We have everything we need to get to the other side of this crisis, as vaccine shipments increase and more Americans are ready to be vaccinated.

Starting Monday, every Illinoisan 16 and over, no matter where they live or where they work, will be eligible to access these lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. Weeks ago, we set our sights on April 12th as the date for every county receiving vaccine from the state to open to full eligibility. And I am so proud that all 101 counties plus suburban Cook County have met that timeline.

As a reminder, even with improved vaccine shipments, patience continues to be the watchword here. We continue to have special vaccine clinics for seniors and those most vulnerable. So some doses are still reserved for them. But it is important that we begin to address the whole population, because the danger of the new variants spreading means that we want every dose to get into arms as soon as humanly possible. The vaccine is the best weapon against the variants, and it's the fastest ticket back to normal life.

In an effort to prioritize our highest demand counties, I'm proud to announce that as we move to universal adult eligibility, we are opening up 150,000 new first-dose appointments next week alone for our 11 state-supported mass vaccination operations in Cook and the Collar counties-- and area pharmacies open to any Illinois resident. That's on top of tens of thousands of newly available appointments at hospitals and local county sites and other mass vaccination sites throughout the region. Those appointments will open in the coming days, and many more will come after that. And it means that we'll be delivering a quarter of a million doses next week in Cook County and the Collar counties alone.

Again, even with all of these new appointments, there will not be enough vaccine in week one to get everyone that wants to be vaccinated a dose. But vaccine doses will be arriving more quickly than ever before, and the public health system is doing everything in its power to get these vaccines into the arms of our residents as quickly as the federal government can deliver them. We have not only expanded appointments available, we've also increased the number of vaccination sites.

As of today, we have more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccination locations across the state of Illinois. That includes 20 large National Guard mass vaccination operations, sites at Costco, CVS, Walgreens, Hy-Vee, Walmart, Kroger, Mariano's and Jewell-Osco and others, as well as many independent pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, clinics, hospitals, and the 96 of our 97 local health departments who receive vaccine allocated by the state of Illinois.

We also have dozens of mobile teams reaching into underserved communities, one-stop shop teams supporting rural communities, rapid response teams targeting areas with outbreaks, and state sites aimed at improving the vaccination rates of certain select counties. We can find-- all of you can find-- the site closest to you at coronavirus.illinois.gov. And if you don't have a computer or you just prefer the phone, and please dial 833-621-1284. That is a statewide hotline if you want to get a coronavirus vaccine appointment. 833-621-1284.

Our fight to stay safe and protect ourselves isn't over. But with each day and each dose we move closer and closer to putting this pandemic to an end. In the meantime, I encourage all Illinoisans to mask up, to keep helping each other out, and we will get through this together.