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Pritzker promotes COVID-19 booster shots

Illinois Gov. Pritzker delivers COVID-19 briefing.
Illinois Gov. Pritzker delivers COVID-19 briefing.(WGEM)
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 1:27 PM CDT
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CHICAGO, Ill. (GRAY TV) - The Pritzker administration wants to help people get COVID-19 booster shots as soon as possible. In fact, Gov. JB Pritzker is calling on skilled nursing facilities to give boosters to residents and staff by Thanksgiving.

People already have the option for a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine. The CDC is reviewing boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines this week.

IDPH is working with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Illinois Department on Aging to provide education about boosters. The departments also plan to support nursing facilities with administering the shots.

Pritzker noted Tuesday that seniors, anyone 18 and older with underlying health conditions and workers in high-risk settings remain eligible for the Pfizer booster shot. He also said seniors are 29 times more likely to end up in the hospital if they’re unvaccinated.

“From June through September of 2021, approximately 90,000 COVID-19 deaths among US adults likely would’ve been prevented if they had chosen to get vaccinated. 90,000,” Pritzker emphasized. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Ezike doesn’t want Illinois to relive the tragedy of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities

The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs plans to give booster shots to most residents once the CDC approves the Moderna booster. IDVA officials previously held a Pfizer booster clinic for any staff and residents who received the Pfizer vaccine.

Pritzker also noted that the FDA could soon recommend an mRNA booster shot for people who originally received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike said everyone saw the devastating impact COVID-19 had on long-term care facilities last year. She said Illinoisans cannot stand by and relive that tragedy. Ezike stressed vaccines are a powerful tool that can prevent hospitalization and deaths.

“We do know that advanced age is one of the most significant risk factors in breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths, Ezike said. “Which is exactly why booster shots are being recommended for everyone 65 and over as well as all people living in long-term care facilities. The data clearly show that while the vaccine continues to offer protection to everyone, the overwhelming majority of the hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID after being fully vaccinated have occurred in those over the age of 65.”

Ezike said she recently participated in a town hall meeting with AARP Illinois to help seniors know more about boosters.

“We’ve gotta do better”

AARP Illinois Director Bob Gallo said COVID-19 vaccines offer hope for the most vulnerable population. He explained vaccines can significantly improve the quality of life for residents. Although, Gallo noted that only 37.9% of nursing homes have 3/4 of their staff fully vaccinated.

“We’ve gotta do better, and bring vaccines and boosters to these congregate settings,” Gallo said. “Let’s work together to ensure that nursing home residents can hug their loved ones, kiss their grandchildren, and spend the holidays with the people they love.”

IDPH is working with local health departments to get the word out as well.

Meanwhile, Pritzker noted he’d like to remove certain mask mandates by the holidays. Although, he noted the COVID metrics must keep going down before that can happen.

“We have three holidays coming up, but especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, where people spend extended amounts of time together. So we’d like very much to get to a place where we can remove certain mask mandates.”

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