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Pritzker’s Daily COVID-19 Briefing Full Transcript And Audio — Dec. 14, 2020

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike are holding daily COVID-19 press briefings as cases and hospitalizations in Illinois reach record highs. Read and listen to the latest update from the governor’s office on new cases, phased re-opening and closings of different regions and the state’s ongoing pandemic response. You can watch the most recent press briefings at 2:30pm every day here on Illinois Newsroom.

Have a question about COVID-19? Ask Illinois Newsroom, and we’ll try our best to answer. The questions we receive from you directly inform the stories we tell and what we investigate. Let us know what you need to know!



Governor Pritzker

Today is a very special day. That should instill us all with optimism and hope. As of this morning, the first shipments of the first FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Illinois. There are many scientists and researchers who deserve our admiration and thanks. But today I want to offer my gratitude to all the truck drivers and pilots, logistics specialists, warehouse operations managers and law enforcement officers who have spent the last few days and weeks deploying the largest national mission in a generation. In their humility, they would say they’re just doing their jobs, but by doing show, they’re saving lives. Earlier today, I joined the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and the Illinois State Police teams receiving the Pfizer shipments on the ground at our Strategic National Stockpile warehouse. As we speak, our vaccine distribution teams are putting into action, what they have prepared and drilled for over the past several weeks, carefully taking inventory of 10s of 1000s of vaccines, repackaging the vaccines and preparing those packages to ship out to our hospital distribution centers tomorrow and Wednesday, the timeline requested by our partners on the ground.

Remember that the logistics of these first vaccine shipments are the most complex because maintaining ultra cold temperatures until the very last moment is essential. Once the packages are received by medical providers, they have only days to use the vaccines, which is why most hospitals have carefully planned their desired delivery schedules over the next several days. Illinois health and Hospital Association president and CEO Aj wilhelmy will join me today to talk about our collaborative effort to ensure this vaccine gets into the arms of as many frontline health care workers as possible to minimize any waste. The shipment we received today is roughly half of our statewide allocation for this first round, excluding Chicago. At the recommendation of the CDC and medical professionals, a portion of our vaccine will be shipped directly from the manufacturer to four of our larger public health departments in Cook, Lake Madison and St. Clair counties.

The federal government will deliver these shipments later this week, and we are working closely with these local health departments to prepare. In other words, Today marks only the beginning of the National Vaccine vaccination rollout. 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 CDC classifies as phase one a, our destination is clear, but the road ahead will be long. Starting next week with the potential FDA approval of the Madonna vaccine, Illinois will begin reserving portions of our weekly shipments for residents and staff of Illinois long term care facilities. The federal government is directing and managing that distribution and those vaccinations through federal contracts with CVS and Walgreens. Across the next three shipments, the federal government estimates providing enough doses for all the skilled nursing facilities that have signed up through the National Program. From there, it’s expected to expand to other congregate care settings, such as assisted living facilities, CVS and Walgreens are reporting extremely high demand across the nation and as they share information on their timetable with us. We will share it with you. Let me echo the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in emphasizing that while this vaccine has been developed at an incredible pace, it’s gone through the formal regulatory process in a very transparent manner.

Under arguably the most public scrutiny of any vaccine case. in human history, our own Illinois independent review board today released its findings. After spending the weekend ferociously diving into all available FDA data on the Pfizer vaccine. And I’m pleased to say that the team has unanimously endorsed the CDC recommendations on the vaccine. These experts are currently working with idph to update our COVID-19 FAQ document on the idph website with answers about the vaccine. We want everyone to be able to access the facts as clearly as possible, as we have them. One of our review board members is with us today will join us a bit later to speak with the public directly about the safe design of this vaccine. Dr. Michael Olson, an assistant professor of medical microbiology at Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine. I know that there’s a lot of information coming out about this vaccine all at once. So I want to quickly run through the recommendations that the CDC put out over the weekend, so that Illinoisans have all of the most up to date information for the decision when it’s your turn in line. To start with CDC director Robert Redfield signed off on recommending the vaccine to all Americans 16 years of age and over. The CDC has also offered additional clinical considerations for certain groups and I want to bring you up to date on those.

For those who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past, the CDC said you can still get this vaccine when it’s your turn, but you should discuss the risks with your doctor if you choose to do so. The CDC does not recommend special precautions for people with just non vaccine allergies, like to bees or peanut butter. The CDC has also recommended that pregnant women have a discussion with their doctor weighing the risk of taking the vaccine or waiting for more data on vaccine safety. A report from the CDC last month noted that pregnant women who get COVID-19 are at increased risk for serious complications compared to non pregnant women of the same age. But we don’t yet have data on how the vaccine would affect pregnant individuals. While medical experts have traditionally recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid vaccines made with live viral material simply as a precaution. The Pfizer vaccine does not contain any viral material. And other vaccines, like the flu shot are routinely recommended during pregnancy. As soon as the CDC or the FDA offers additional information regarding this vaccine, and pregnancy, you’ll hear it from me. But with the data to date, they have determined that this is a decision between a woman and her doctor. Today marks a momentous occasion, not just this year, but in American history. 11 months after scientists the world over got their hands on the genetic sequence of the virus. We are seeing the beginning of the end of this pandemic.

This is an incredible testament to our research institutions, to our scientists, to the medical professionals who worked tirelessly every day of this battle without ever knowing exactly when this day would come but holding out hope in their hearts that it would. And here we are. Oh, thank you. And with that, I’d like to turn it over to Iha president and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi.


A.J. Wilhelmi

Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity to join you today on this very hopeful day, as you just said very eloquently. And let me say at the outset how much we all appreciate your strong leadership, as well as the leadership of directors ek and how much the hospital community appreciates and values our partnership. As the governor has mentioned, time and time again hospitals and health care workers have been on the front lines in the covid 19 pandemic all year. And we’re on the frontlines again as the vaccination process begins. The hospital community stands ready to play a major role in the vaccination process by serving as distribution hubs and vaccinating at risk health care workers. So they can be personally safe and also available to care for their Patients, hospitals are preparing to receive vaccines this week.

As mentioned by the governor, their teams have prepared internal vaccination plans. They’re communicating and planning with our government partners and with their local health departments. To be sure this complex and logistically challenging process goes as smoothly as possible. And we know this vaccine demand will far exceed supply in the first couple of months. So our hospital leaders are urging calm and patience as the vaccination process plays out. We also know that the vaccination of the people of Illinois will require a thoughtful process that will take months not days. And we’re committed to this right, the stakes are too high to rush through it. And so hospitals will approach the vaccination process in a planned and orderly way. That allows us to balance timely vaccinations of our most at risk healthcare workers, with maintaining our ability to best care for our patients. And of course, it’s critical as the governor said, to implement this process in a manner that doesn’t we spec seen Iha in the Illinois hospital community stand with Governor Pritzker, and directors ek in fighting this pandemic, and in urging everyone to pull together for a few more months masca social difference, wash your hands. And when it’s your turn, please get vaccinated.

We’re extremely pleased to be in a position to turn the tables on this virus. And we look forward to working with Governor Pritzker and directors EPA to do our part to effectively execute on the vaccination plan. And so again, Governor Pritzker, Ngozi Ezike, thank you for your strong leadership. It’s a real pleasure and an honor to work with you on this very hopeful day, and in the days to come. So governor, I’ll turn it back to you. Thank you very much, AJ. And thank you very much for all the amazing hard work that you’ve done to support our health care workers, our hospital systems in preparation for the distribution of this vaccine. And now I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike for today’s medical update.


Dr. Ngozi Ezike

Good afternoon. Today has been highly anticipated. It’s the day that we start seeing vaccine delivered and distributed across the US. We have been praying for this day and preparing for this day for months. And we’re working with our local health departments, and our hospitals to get the vaccine into the arms of those who need it most as quickly as possible. However, I want to remind people, as you’ve heard already this afternoon, that there is only a limited number of doses of the vaccine for right now. And so we will be following the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on who should be prioritized in this round. Vaccines are prioritized for individuals who are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19 workers in the healthcare setting, and those who are at the greatest risk of severe illness and we all know that to be our loved ones in the long term care facilities. As more vaccine becomes available, more individual, more individuals will be eligible to receive the vaccine. But until that time, please again, you’ve heard this word patience.

Let’s exercise patience and understand that there may be others who will get the vaccine before you. We continue to learn more each day about the virus, which helps us inform future vaccine administration. As more vaccine becomes available, local health departments will evaluate the makeup of their communities and will tailor their vaccination plan while following the America the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations. And as more recommendations come out, we will continue to urge all of our partners to follow those. I definitely look forward to the day when the vaccine is widely available to every single person in this state. Until that time, we still need to continue with our masking, avoiding crowds watching our distance and washing our hands. Let’s work to protect and not infect those that we love and those around us. And I’m also so glad to have our own Illinois advanced vaccination advisory workgroup who has been working so hard as the governor mentioned, to review the information to give their approval and support for this vaccine. It’s been an honor are working with all the members of that group that span from academic institutions throughout the state and involve infectious disease experts, vac sinologist virologists immunologist biostatisticians again, thank you for all of your dedicated service.

Today we are reporting 7214 individuals who were newly diagnosed with covid 19 for a total of more than 856,000 cases in Illinois. Over the last 24 hours, we unfortunately received notice of an additional 103 individuals who lost their battle with COVID. And that brings a total number of lives loss to more than 14,300. Overnight, 4951 individuals were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19 1070 in the ICU, and 621 individuals on ventilators. This is another milestone in terms of being under 5000 for the first time in about nearly six weeks. In the last 24 hours more than 92,000 tests have been reported for a total of more than 11 point 8 million tests in Illinois. Today is a great day in our fight against covid 19. It is the beginning of the end of this pandemic. But we are not there yet there are still many months ahead before we eventually end this pandemic but we will get there together as soon as we can by all working together. Thank you for your support, and now I’ll turn it over to Governor Pritzker.


Governor Pritzker 

We just have one more guest. So first, thank you, Dr. Ezike. And last but not least, I’d like to introduce a distinguished member of our state’s vaccine review board. So joining us from Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine, Dr. Michael Olsen.


Dr. Michael Olson. 

Thank you. There we go. Thank you Governor Pritzker. On behalf of the Illinois advisory workgroup, I would like to highlight a couple of aspects of the COVID vaccine that are important as we move on to this new phase of the pandemic. The Illinois vaccine advisory workgroup, as stated by Dr. Zeki included experts with backgrounds in microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, Biostatistics and infectious disease and represented institutions across the entire state. We have independently reviewed the available scientific data supporting the authorisation of the COVID-19 vaccine. We are in full agreement with the FDA authorization and CDC recommendation of the vaccine.

This two dose vaccine passed the rigorous study involving over 30,000 volunteers demonstrating 95% efficacy in preventing severe covid 19 infection, all the while maintaining an excellent safety profile. The trials involve people from various ages, racing, races and ethnicity, weight and various medical conditions. Given the current available scientific information, the workgroup believes that COVID-19 vaccination will prevent COVID-19 infection and people across the entire state of Illinois, including the black and Latino x populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is a key step to protecting the people of Illinois and stopping the pandemic. And the Illinois vaccine advisory workgroup recommends that eligible persons receive the COVID-19 vaccine, when they’re when it becomes available. And it is their turn, our team worked together to try to distill a lot of information and knowledge down into that FAQ sheet that will be available on the FDA website, not FDA idph. Get my acronym straight here on the idph website. And it will have information about what you can expect when you get a shot or when you get the vaccination.

Typically, local side effects were mild for redness in the arm, and that your other side effects that were more systemic involved, fatigue and headache. And those are most common in the younger subset of the population that was vaccinated, and then were a little bit stronger upon receiving the second dose. So not everybody is going to have a reaction like that. It was for headache and and fatigue, it was 51 and 39% in the highest bracket of those experiencing the symptom. And that’s just your body deciding that I need to respond to this and have an immune response. So one could view that as something positive taking place. Pain in the injection site was not terribly frequent. And like I said, older patients had less severe reactions or side effects than younger, long term side effects are unknown at this point in time, given the length of time that it is available to study the vaccine. The report was very careful to state that we have watched this for two months post second vaccination. And so the data at this point in time reflects what is currently known. And that was the questions that were designed to be asked, is often asked why a vaccine like this can be developed so quickly. And there’s a lot of factors that come into play here. Just to highlight a few things.

The scientists were ready and prepared. They had there were people already working on Mr. m RNA vaccines, the type of this vaccine that is being used. And it was showing good results in PLU studies and other studies as well. But then there became a large need and demand and influx of money. They’re able to use trial sites that were already existing. And last but not least, there were volunteers and a pandemic going on. So to to gain statistical significance. One needs to have people who took out the placebo come down with COVID-19 at a more higher at a higher rate than those who received the vaccination and when there’s a lot of disease burden going on, then you’re able to assess that so that was kind of a bonus but unfortunate consequence of the vaccine of the pandemic. So a question we often get is that will, will you get the vaccine and as an advisory committee or as a workgroup, we would say, Yes, we will. And we will get that when it’s our turn.

As Governor Pritzker also pointed out, there is not the ability for you to come down with COVID, receiving the vaccine, or for you to pass COVID on to anybody else due to the vaccine. This vaccine only provides a very small subset, or a small piece of one protein or just a part of the virus. And so as your body responds to it, there is no way for a new virus to form there’s no way for that to be passed on. So a lot of safety concerns that people have are answered on this FAQ, and some of them another one would be is this going to be a yearly shot like the flu. Getting the data right now, we don’t know how long the protection is going to be at least two months and likely longer. But there’s a lot of differences between the flu and Coronavirus at a genetic level that explains some of those differences. And the trial is ongoing. They will be monitoring people that were enrolled for the next couple of years. And at a later point in time, they’ll be able to advise on how frequently if at all, more vaccines are needed. That’s just some of the highlights. There’s more on the FAQ. And so I thank you for your time.

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