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Illinois pushing booster shots; Working to vaccinate nursing home residents, staff by Thanksgiving

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(WSIL) -- One and a half million Illinoisans are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot and Illinois officials are launching a statewide effort to increase uptake rates. 

IDPH is partnering with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), and Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) to increase education around boosters and provide support to skilled nursing facilities as they work to administer boosters to residents. 

The goal is to vaccinate staff and residents in skilled nursing facilities by Thanksgiving. 

As of October 12th, only 18% of Illinois residents aged 65 and older had received a booster. 

Currently, Illinois residents 65 or older, anyone 18+ with underlying medical conditions (listed here) or who work or live in high-risk settings, such as educators and first responders, are eligible to receive a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine.

The CDC is set to review booster recommendations for the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines on Oct. 20 and 21, with final CDC authorization coming at the end of the week.

“We know that COVID-19 vaccines are life-saving. For our seniors, you’re 29 times more likely to end up in the hospital if you’re unvaccinated. Boosters will extend that life-saving protection,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “So let’s do what we can to save lives: roll up your sleeve. Get the COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t yet – you might just save a life. Get your booster shot – so you can be even better protected. And let’s get out of this pandemic — we can do it by continuing to work together for the common good.”

To increase that figure, IDPH is working with staff and administrators at skilled nursing facilities to increase booster rates and identify potential barriers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a booster shot for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on September 23rd. Eligible residents who previously received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine can receive a booster shot at a pharmacy, their primary care provider, local health department, and other locations offering Pfizer vaccinations.

IDPH is spearheading the administration’s effort to get booster shots into the arms of residents at long-term care facilities, approximately 85% of which administered the Pfizer vaccine to its residents.

 “We know that advanced age is a significant factor in COVID-19 breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths, but a booster dose can help provide continued protection,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “While COVID-19 vaccines continue to be effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, scientists and medical experts continue to watch for signs of waning immunity, how well the vaccines protect against variants, and how that data differs across age groups and risk factors.  Booster doses recommended for those 65 years and older, and for long-term care residents, can combat waning immunity and help protect those at higher risk of severe illness.”   

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Kenzie Dillow joined the team in 2016 as an editor, moved to Producer in 2017 & took over the Digital Content Manager position in 2021. Kenzie graduated from SIUC in 2016 with a degree in Sports Broadcasting and Advertising.

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