Tri-county area expanding to 1B+ group for COVID-19 vaccines Friday

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — As more doses of the COVID-19 are expected to arrive locally, the tri-county area is joining the state’s initiative to expand eligibility.

During Thursday’s press conference, Monica Hendrickson, public health administrator for the Peoria City/County Health Department, announced the area would be expanding to the 1B+ group on Friday.

Hendrickson said this group includes people ages 16-64 who have medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19.

“These conditions include obesity, diabetes, pulmonary disease, smoking, heart conditions, chronic kidney disease, cancer, solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, pregnancy, and persons with disabilities not otherwise covered,” Hendrickson said.

She said the area wasn’t ordinally able to expand its 1B group last month due to first dose vaccine shortages and delays, although they were getting a lot of second doses coming in. However, she said the health department is starting to receive more.

“We’re now seeing our first dose allocation increase across the board and we hope to see from projections that they continue to increase,” Hendrickson said. “This week alone we received 1,700 doses, as first doses, we hope to get another 3,000 next week.”

Hendrickson said she hopes to see allocations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the coming weeks now that it’s starting to arrive in Illinois.

She said once the tri-county area has all three vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, they’ll be distributed based on what makes sense and ways to not waste the doses, rather than letting the public choose which vaccines they want.

“I think that maybe the biggest difference for the individual is a 16 or 17-year-old. Because 16 and 17 years olds are currently only available to get the Pfizer,” Hendrickson said. “Otherwise, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are for 18 and older, so that may be the only real indication change. Otherwise, it’s going to be what makes sense so that we don’t waste a single dose.”

During the press conference, Hendrickson also announced a partnership with Heart of Illinois United Way to help with setting up vaccine appointments.

Jennifer Zammuto, president of Heart of Illinois United Way, said United Way will be lending its 2-1-1 information and referral line starting Friday. She said the service can be used by those in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, and Stark counties.

“Individuals that fit the 1A and 1B state vaccination schedule, that have yet to receive their first dose vaccination, can call 211 to be placed on the first dose saver list,” Zammuto said. “This does include the expansion group with the specified medical conditions.”

Hendrickson also said the number of COVID-19 cases is continuing to decline in the tri-county area with only 341 new cases reported over the past week, which is a number the area hasn’t seen since last July.

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