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Pritzker Praises Peoria Vaccine Rollout, Promises More On the Way

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks about Peoria County's vaccination efforts at the former Heddington Oaks nursing home in West Peoria, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.
Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks about Peoria County's vaccination efforts at the former Heddington Oaks nursing home in West Peoria, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

Gov. JB Pritzker says Peoria County is a leader in the state's COVID-19 vaccination effort.

"If Peoria County were a state, it would be number two in the nation for total number of doses administered per 100,000 residents. That's very impressive," Pritzker said during an appearance Wednesday at a West Peoria nursing home.

That statistic took Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson by surprise.

"To hear something as positive as our vaccine campaign is working, it's a positive sign," she said.

More than 80% of the local 65-plus population, and 55% of the eligible population under 65, has received a first dose of vaccine in Peoria County.

Still, supply shortages are hampering efforts to speed up the vaccination process. For the past two weeks, Peoria County has noted a limited supply of new first doses, as the state earmarks more allocation for second doses to achieve full immunizations.

The Tri-County region doesn't plan to expand 1B eligibility on Thursday to include people with comorbidities like obesity, cancer, or diabetes due to those supply constraints. That expands the 1B category in Peoria County to about two-thirds of the total population.

"With the expansion of vaccine, moving past second doses, we're hoping to reassess," Hendrickson said. "And we reassess each week as those projections come."

The governor said about 1 in 7 Illinoisans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But Pritzker said by mid-March, the state is expecting to receive 100,000 doses per day. That's up from the current 60,000 per day.

The approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could bump those numbers up by another 20 percent.

"The aspects of getting more vaccines in our community, this is just great information," said Hendrickson.

The single-dose J&J vaccine has 66 percent efficacy. That's significantly less than the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that hover at 94 and 95 percent, respectively. Still, an FDA analysis this week recommended the Johnson approval.

Hendrickson said that distinction may not matter much.

"You're looking at a distinction that from a clinical standpoint or an epidemiological standpoint, is really very minor compared to what we really are hoping for, which is decreases in deaths, and decreases in illness," Hendrickson said. "Which is really where they match up between the three vaccines."

She said influenza vaccine efficacy typically hovers between 45 percent and 60 percent. She said public health officials were hoping for a vaccine with an efficacy above 40 percent.

"The most important thing is, though, that when these vaccines become available, if you have an option to any of these three, get one of them. That's the key message we want people to get," she said.

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Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.