Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson says the Tri-County area is prepared to meet the state's goal of offering COVID vaccines to all people ages 16 and older come April 12.
That's when Gov. JB Pritzker announced eligibility will expand statewide, in keeping with President Joe Biden's stated goal of making vaccinations widely accessible by May 1.
"What we understand is there's going to be an influx of vaccines, specifically the Johnson & Johnson. And that's going to be a game-changer for us," Hendrickson said at a news conference on Thursday. "It's always been about allocations. And now that the state's seen those three-week projections, they know what we're expecting to get."
Hendrickson said the Peoria area currently receives around 8,000 vaccines a week. That allocation is expected to increase by the April 12 expansion -- with the single-dose J&J arriving in the third week of the current three-week projection. Right now, she said the regional health care system has the logistical capacity to administer up to 30,000 vaccines a week.
"As long as the volume of vaccines and allocation increases, I think we'll be comfortable kind of moving into that open eligibility on the 12th," Hendrickson said.
While Hendrickson said people should avoid "vaccine shopping" and take whichever vaccine is offered to them, one newly eligible group will need to be picky come April 12: 16 and 17-year-olds.
Only the Pfizer vaccine is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for usage in teens younger than 18.
Hendrickson recommends families first work through their health care provider to locate a Pfizer vaccine for their teen. The two-dose vaccines are still largely routed through health care providers locally, due to their storage requirements and other logistical hurdles.
"Really work with them, as kind of a starting point. And then touch base with that phone number that is statewide. Because you might have Pfizer at some of our statewide sites. So it might be a drive, but because for 16 and 17-year-olds, it's the only option available, we recommend you look for them," she said.
Hendrickson said they would need to partner with the health care systems to offer any kind of targeted Pfizer vaccine clinics in school settings. That would depend upon the local Pfizer allocation, she said.
Peoria County currently leads the state's 102 counties in vaccinating the 65-and-older population, with more than 90% having received a dose. About 21.5% of the 16-64 population has received a vaccine.
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