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Illinois to allow COVID vaccine for pre-existing conditions

Illinois residents under 65 years old with pre-existing medical conditions will be eligible to receive vaccination to protect them against COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.

The Phase 1B distribution plan on Feb. 25 will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for vaccinating pregnant women and people with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, sickle cell disease and other conditions.

“Many of these people may already be eligible because they’re 65 and over or they’re in a covered profession, but those who are under 65 and live with comorbidities have an elevated risk of serious complications or even death if they contract COVID-19,” he said during a tour of a vaccination site in Quincy. “As quickly as we receive vaccine supply, we need to waste no time in protecting them.“

Currently, those eligible for vaccination include health care workers, nursing home residents and workers, some other “front-line essential” workers and all residents 65 or older.

The Pritzker administration says the expansion is possible due to increased federal vaccine shipments to the state. It also notes Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is on track for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration as soon as the end of the month.

Pritzker said Illinois is making progress in adding more vaccination sites, with 517 vaccination locations established statewide. However, he conceded making an appointment requires patience because the state hasn’t received enough vaccines to provide for everyone who is eligible in phase 1B.

Illinois has received 2,152,425 vaccine doses, with nearly 1.5 million administered as of late Tuesday.

Also Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there is pathway for the city’s bars and restaurants to eventually serve 50% of their indoor capacity. Beginning Thursday, the businesses can serve 25% of capacity or 50 people, whichever is less.

Lightfoot said the expansion of indoor capacity to 40% will be granted once the city reaches “moderate risk” level in metrics that include the number of daily COVID cases and hospital capacity. She said the city is trending in the right direction.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 2,825 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in the state. That brings to more than 1.1 million cases since the start of the pandemic, including 19,739 deaths.

As of late Tuesday, 2,082 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 464 patients in intensive care units and 232 patients on ventilators.

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