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Illinois vaccination sites to branch out to rural areas

By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Small towns in downstate Illinois will soon have more access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker stopped in Morris in Grundy County on Thursday, the site of the state’s newest mass vaccination facility. He said the state is expanding its vaccination rollout and will be sending vaccine shipments to nine hospitals serving rural areas of Illinois.

“A continuation of our mission to meet communities where they already are,” Pritzker said. “Rural communities deserve the same protections from the virus that suburban and urban communities get.”

Grundy County Health Department Administrator Michelle Prium said having the National Guard on hand has made a difference.

“Through this new partnership, we will be able to provide vaccine to even more residents at a more rapid pace,” Prium said. “In the first week of the Illinois National Guard being in Grundy, we have seen our allocation quadruple.”

Of the 23 mass vaccination sites in Illinois, less than half are located outside of the Chicago area. The state’s only federally run location at the United Center in Chicago, initially available to all state residents, is restricted to Cook County residents for now.

Chicago will be allotted 60% of the vaccines administered at the facility for its residents, while Cook County and the state determine rules for other residents. That is the latest change in a sign-up process that has caused confusion from the beginning.

Illinois is currently in Phase 1B Plus, which includes people with certain underlying conditions, including cancer, kidney disease, COPD, diabetes and smoking. It also includes anyone 65 or older and frontline workers such as teachers, fire and law enforcement, and grocery store workers.

According to the New York Times, 9.5% of Illinoisans are fully vaccinated. That ranks 38th in the nation.

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