CHICAGO, IL — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the guidelines for the next stage of COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the state, Phase 1B.

Pritzker says Phase 1B is building on guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

“ACIP’s guidance serves as the foundational blueprint for Illinois’ Phase 1B plan, with one key adjustment: here in Illinois we are more strongly pursuing equity in the distribution of our vaccinations,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “For people of color, multi-generational institutional racism in the provision of healthcare has reduced access to care, caused higher rates of environmental and social risk, and increased co-morbidities. I believe our exit plan for this pandemic must, on balance, overcome structural inequalities that has allowed COVID-19 to rage through our most vulnerable communities.”

Gov. Pritzker says Phase 1B will begin when Phase 1A is complete. He says it will include all Illinois residents age 65 years and older and "frontline essential workers," as outlined by ACIP. 

The governor says in order to reduce COVID-19 mortality and limit community spread in Black and Brown communities, Pritzker says the state decided to lower the age eligibility in Phase 1B by 10 years from ACIP's recommendation. Currently, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says the average age of COVID-19 deaths is 81 for white patients, 72 for Black patients, and 68 for Latino patients. 

 “With limited amounts of vaccine available at this time, it is important to prioritize individuals who are at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those at greatest risk of severe illness or death,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Generally, Latinx and Black populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 with data showing related deaths at younger ages.  We are hopeful that by lowering the eligibility age to 65 years we can help reduce this disparity.” 

The governor's office says the frontline essential workers designation includes many people who carry a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure because of their work duties, often because they are unable to work from home, and/or they must work closely to others without being able to socially distance. 

Communities of color are disproportionately represented in many of these industries, according to Pritzker. The category defined by the federal government as frontline essential workers includes first responders, education workers; including teachers, support staff and childcare workers, manufacturing, distribution and agriculture workers, including grocery store workers; U.S. Postal Service workers, public transit employees, corrections workers and incarcerated people, and others. 

Pritzker says all in all, Phase 1B can vaccinate around 3.2 million people throughout the state of Illinois.  

Pritzker says prioritizing equity is a critical component of every phase of the state's vaccine distribution plan and lowering the age eligibility and including frontline essential workers in phase 1B is a pivotal step towards protecting all Illinois' elderly residents and Illinoisians who have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. Lowering the age eligibility also ensures the benefits of the vaccination reach all the communities in a fair manner. 

The governor also says as the state enter the next phase, the administration will utilizing every available resource at the state's disposal to ensure that as many Illinoisans as possible are able to receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.  

The Illinois National Guard will also be helping in the development of mass vaccination sites and the state will be increasing the number of providers enrolled in the state's vaccination database to support widespread availability when the time comes. 

Gov. Pritzker says these efforts are in line with the equity directive released earlier in the pandemic with a focus on ensuring vulnerable and historically marginalized communities receive equitable and informed access to COVID-19 vaccines. 

The governor says the state will continue to proactively expand infrastructure, especially in communities of color, to move these vaccines through Illinois at an even faster pace once there is an increase in the federal distribution pipeline. 

Gov. Pritzker says the IDPH team continues to review ACIP’s recommendations for Phase 1C.       

As the state moves forward, the governor's office says it is critical that Illinoisans continue to follow public health mitigations to suppress the spread of the virus until vaccines are available for wider distribution.