The Tri-County area announced sharp cutbacks in its allocation of first COVID-19 vaccine doses last week as the state directed local health departments to dedicate more to second doses.
First-dose supply may rebound in the weeks to come as health departments make their way through the current wave of second doses, but Peoria City/County Health Department Monica Hendrickson said she's concerned about future ebbs and flows in first-dose availability as more second doses need to be administered, and overall supply remains stagnant.
The hope is that an increase in vaccine production volume can offset the reallocations needed for second doses.
"We do know that Pfizer has looked at speeding up production. We're hoping to have Johnson & Johnson also available on the market," Hendrickson said. "We're hoping that overall, just volume, in terms of product volume, increases around the same time, so we should not see maybe such drastic swings in allocation, but there may still be some slight ebb and flow that goes with it."
Last week, the Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford County Health Departments announced they were only anticipating a combined 1,100 doses of vaccine for the next two weeks, and only 2,200 total the first week of March.
For contrast, the Peoria City/County Health Department alone usually has around 2,000 doses a week available for new vaccinations.
Because of the vaccine supply shifts and limited overall allocation, the Tri-County health departments aren't yet expanding 1B eligibility on Feb. 25 to include people with comorbidities like obesity, diabetes, cancer, COPD, or heart conditions.
Hendrickson said the 1B expansion comprises half the former 1C population; 1B already was one of the largest vaccine waves, with all people 65 and older eligible prior to the governor's expansion announcement.
"I think it's safe to say, now, with that full expansion, you're looking at close to two-thirds of our population that would qualify for this new grouping," she said. "The hard part is, we still don't have enough vaccine to get there."
Hendrickson had predicted it would take around two months to get through the remainder of the local 1B population prior to the expansion. But with the eligibility expansion and the ongoing supply uncertainty, she said that window has shifted again.
"I don't want to take this lightly, but sometimes I feel like a magic 8-ball might give me the response at times because we are really adhering to not only production, but now, this week, weather," she said.
The Tri-County region is waiting on about 10,000 doses delayed by severe winter weather across the nation. Hendrickson said there's a little wiggle room because many of the delayed doses are second doses. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) also ordered more vaccine ahead of time, in anticipation of weather-related delays at the federal level.
Vaccines administered by Walgreens, Kroger, HyVee, and other private vendors are allocated through a separate federal supply chain. The local hospitals and health departments are working through IDPH.
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