By Joe Boyle
The first shipments of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Illinois and delivery is expected this week at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Advocate Christ Medical Center, 4440 W. 95th St., is one of 10 hospitals in the state to serve as a regional distribution center. Administrators at Advocate said last week that they will be working with other hospitals to distribute and vaccinate the first recipients.
However, Advocate administrators have not indicated as of Monday when the vaccines would arrive.
During a press conference held last Thursday, Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention for Advocate Aurora Health, said that mass vaccination is the key to dealing with the coronavirus.
"That's the best case scenario," Citronberg said. "We don't get out of this without mass vaccination."
As of last Thursday, 162 patients with COVID-19 were being treated at Advocate Christ Medical Center. Advocate Aurora Health is caring for 575 COVID-19 patients across its 10 Illinois hospitals, administrators said.
Citronberg emphasized that without the vaccines, the U.S. could have had another three years of living with the virus, well over a thousand more dead, and additional economic woes.
With the vaccine, life could become more normal by the end of next June, Citronberg said.
Advocate Christ Medical Center is one four local institutions that will distribute the vaccine. The other facilities include Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, and NorthShore-Highland Park Hospital in Highland Park.
Moderna could also be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to combat the COVID-19 virus. The vaccine may be approved as early as next week, according to the FDA.
Citronberg said that is encouraging news. However, hospital workers will have to be patient because there will not be enough vaccine to to begin the process of inoculating an entire staff. Hospitals will have to make some tough choices.
"We think of it more as triage than rationing," Citronberg said. "We are prioritizing, and eventually we will have enough to immunize every one of our members."
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be given to 21 million health care workers in the U.S. Another three million long-term care residents will also receive the doses.
Pfizer began shipping the vaccine from its Kalamazoo, Mich., plant Sunday morning, which was less than 48 hours after the FDA granted emergency use authorization.
The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA arrived in Illinois Monday, but officials said there’s still a need for social distancing, face coverings and other mitigations as a full rollout could take months.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker hailed distribution of the Pfizer vaccine as the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic. But many questions are still unanswerable as to the timeline of distribution for future shipments and that of a second potential vaccine, the governor said.
“ Today marks only the beginning of the national vaccination rollout,” Pritzker said at his daily briefing Monday in Chicago. “This week the very first recipients of the very first phase will receive their first of two doses of this COVID-19 vaccine. To put it in perspective, in total, Illinois will be receiving about 109,000 doses this week. Nationally, there are approximately 24 million people who the (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) classifies as Phase 1A. Our destination is clear, but the road ahead will be long.”
Phase 1A of vaccine distribution includes health care workers and long-term care facility residents. Future recipients will be based on recommendations of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP.
Contributing to this report was Jerry Nowicki with Capitol News Illinois