By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday urged eligible Illinoisans to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot and called on skilled nursing facilities to make booster shots available to patients and staff by Thanksgiving.
Currently anyone who received the Pfizer vaccine and is over 65 years of age or at higher risk of COVID-19 because of their jobs, living conditions or underlying medical condition should get a booster shot of the same vaccine.
This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to rule on the same recommendation for people in those age and risk groups who received the Moderna vaccine.
For those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is recommending a second dose for all age and risk groups at least two months after the first shot was received. The CDC could officially accept those recommendations this week as well.
More information on where to obtain a vaccine can be found at vaccines.gov.
“We’ve been lucky enough to live with vaccines so long that we often forget how much disease we’ve prevented, but millions of lives are saved across the world each year because of vaccines,” Pritzker said during a COVID-19 update in Chicago.
From June to September, Pritzker said, citing a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, “approximately 90,000 COVID-19 deaths among U.S. adults likely would have been prevented if they had chosen to get vaccinated.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health is partnering with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Illinois Department on Aging to promote boosters and support skilled nursing facilities in administering them.
IDPH will base an outreach campaign on where outbreaks are occurring and the CDC’s social vulnerability index, which uses 15 U.S. Census variables to identify communities that might need support before, during or after disasters.
The administration encouraged all skilled nursing facilities to host a vaccine booster clinic by Thanksgiving, and said IEMA can, with a request for assistance, mobilize its community partners vaccination program to support those efforts. IEMA has hosted more than 4,000 vaccine clinics through the community partners program since vaccines became available.
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs “is prepped and ready to bring booster shots into every home as soon as they are eligible,” Pritzker said, noting most in those facilities received the Moderna vaccine. Families of others in long-term care should call the facility to ensure boosters will be made available.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the CDC could soon decide whether mixing different available vaccine types is advisable, but the current recommendation is that a person should receive a booster from the same manufacturer of the shots they were given during the first round of vaccinations.
“IDPH is currently working on additional training for COVID-19 vaccine providers that will cover booster doses by type, as well as planning for upcoming vaccination for the children under the age of 12,” Ezike said.
An FDA panel is set to review data on authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 on Oct. 26, while the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC review is scheduled for Nov. 2-3.
“So look forward to more information on how to get your child vaccinated in Illinois in the coming weeks,” she said.
Illinois’ hospitalizations and positivity rates for the virus have been decreasing in recent days after a slight surge in August and September. As of Monday, the case positivity rate stood at 2 percent.