As vaccine nears, state officials tout its safety

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(The Center Square) – After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Tuesday deemed the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective, Illinois officials are working to assure the public the same.

The FDA is expected to make a decision Thursday on whether to approve the vaccine. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said if approved, the vaccine will undergo further scrutiny by Illinois health officials.

“I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Illinois will only distribute a vaccine that is deemed safe, and we are one of many states that have established additional review panels,” Pritzker said.

If approved, Illinois officials believe a shipment could arrive in the state next week, but Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said it will take time before every Illinoisan can get vaccinated.

“Due to the limited supply of this vaccine available in the U.S., it will take months to roll out the vaccine to the priority groups, and even longer for it to be given to the general public,” Ezike said.

Joining the governor at his daily COVID-19 briefing was Bonnie Blue, one of the first participants in the Moderna vaccine trial at the University of Illinois. Blue said when the vaccine becomes available, take it.

“I’m here. I’m am fine,” Blue said. “I did not have horrible side effects from anything.”

It was not clear if Blue was given the vaccine or a placebo during the clinical trial. Blue also encouraged Illinoisans to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and visit with friends and family by phone or video to reduce the spread of the virus.

Ezike said state officials had no immediate plans to require COIVD-19 vaccinations for students at public schools.

“We’re still struggling with getting uptake of vaccines for the ones that are required by IDPH now,” she said.

Ezike said it would be up to the state legislature to decide if the vaccine would be required to attend public schools.

On Tuesday, the state marked another milestone, surpassing 800,000 cases of the coronavirus so far, as IDPH reported 7,910 new confirmed and probable cases, as well as 145 additional deaths.

Since the start of the pandemic, IDPH has reported a total of 804,174 COVID-19 cases and 13,487 deaths.

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