SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – 73% of Illinoisans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Illinois Department of Public Health says 51% of residents are fully vaccinated.
Public health officials from across the state spoke during a House healthcare committee hearing Monday morning. State experts stressed Illinois continues to see increasing transmission, hospitalization, and preventable deaths among unvaccinated people.
IDPH notes the Delta variant is still the most dominant strain of COVID-19 in the state. Contrary to statements by some Republican lawmakers, the variant has spread quickly among people of all ages. The state’s leading epidemiologist says cases of COVID for 5 to 11-year-olds went up 788% over the past month.
“Our 12 to 17-year-olds had an increase in their case counts of 704%,” said Dr. Sarah Patrick. “And the 18 to 22-year-olds had an 1345% increase.”
Patrick says IDPH linked the significant increase in cases to COVID outbreaks at summer camps, sporting events in other states, and community spread. She also explained that just under 1,500 of the new COVID-19 cases in July were children under 18.
The pandemic isn’t over.
Patrick said all of the vaccines can help people protect themselves and those under 12 who can’t get the shot. IDPH officials say the pandemic isn’t over and anyone hesitant about vaccines should ask their doctor or pharmacist for reliable information.
However, several lawmakers and many people across Illinois are curious about the recent uptick in vaccinated people contracting COVID. Dr. Patrick notes no vaccine is 100% effective at all times. She says people should expect to see breakthrough cases of COVID-19.
Patrick also explained it is common to see breakthroughs with childhood vaccines and shots against other agents. Although, breakthrough cases of COVID remain rare in Illinois.
“About one out of ten thousand fully vaccinated people in this state becomes a breakthrough disease which is a very very low number of breakthrough disease. It’s still a very rare event,” Patrick said.
Rep. Mary Flowers asked the health experts if Illinois gave a false sense of security that people are “okay” if they’re vaccinated. She also asked if state leaders are playing a “shame game” with people who haven’t gotten vaccinated.
Dr. Allison Arwady, Director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said shaming won’t help anyone. Arwady wants people to ask questions and understand vaccines can prevent hospitalizations and death from COVID-19.
“We’ve got more than a year now of data for those longer trials. There have been more than 4.3 billion vaccines given around the world,” said Arwady. “All around the world, they’ve been shown to be safe and importantly really effective, especially against that hospitalization and death.”
COVID-19 outbreaks in DHS facilities
Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Human Services is responding to outbreaks in care facilities. DHS Senior Policy Advisor Dana Kelly says 10 of the state’s 14 facilities have an “outbreak status.” Kelly noted there are very few breakthrough cases, but you can see several facilities had fully vaccinated staff and residents contract COVID.
The department also reported 155 full-time staff tested positive between April 24 and July 23. Although, only 21 of those employees had vaccinations.
“We continue to promote strict adherence to safety protocols and long-term care guidelines according to IDPH guidance,” Kelly said.
IDHS has provided 28,276 vaccinations at facilities across the state since January. Kelly explained 82% of those, 5,270 shots, went to residents and patients. She also noted 53% of the doses, 6,290 shots, went to IDHS facility staff. 11,179 community members and 5,290 SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid clients also received vaccines.
82% of all patients in DHS facilities have received at least one dose. Kelly explained 79% of patients have received both doses. However, only 53% of DHS staff are vaccinated. Kelly said 45% of employees at developmental centers have received at least one dose. Meanwhile, 67% of staff at psychiatric hospitals received vaccines.
“We still continue to try and push on staff to really engage in vaccination,” Kelly said. “It really depends on the site as well, in terms of the uptake.”