IDPH Director Ezike Gets 1st Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 at the North Riverside Health Center. (WTTW News)Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 at the North Riverside Health Center. (WTTW News)

As the state continues its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Illinois’ top doctor rolled up her sleeve Tuesday to receive her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

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Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says she has studied everything she can about COVID-19 and was excited to be vaccinated.

“Most people survive this illness but some don’t,” she said. “I don’t want to gamble with my life and I don’t want anyone else to gamble with theirs.”

Ezike said she’s also getting vaccinated for her family.

“I am taking this vaccine for my husband who gave me the scare of my life when he collapsed at the dinner table in front of me and our children in May. After being rushed to the hospital and learning of his diagnosis, it became intensely personal to never forget that this virus preys on people with pre-existing medical conditions,” she said. “I am getting vaccinated for my children who have struggled like many of us.”

Her husband’s condition was not disclosed, but Ezike says it puts him in a higher risk category should he contract the virus.

As of Monday night, 353,791 vaccinations have been administered, including 41,075 in long-term care facilities, according to IDPH data. Of the state’s more than 12 million residents, less than 1% — 72,458 — have been fully vaccinated, according to state data.

Currently, the vaccine is only available to health care workers as well as staff and residents of long-term care facilities. While the state could soon expand its rollout to include residents ages 65 and older, it will be months before it is widely available.

Ezike says she can’t wait for the vaccine to become available to everyone and that it is “going to give us our normal lives back.”

“We have a race against the clock because people are dying every single day,” she said, acknowledging the concern over a new variant of the virus that is already “potentially here” in Illinois.

IDPH reported 6,642 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 117 additional deaths. Since the first infection was reported in Illinois nearly a year ago, there have been 1,040,168 cases and 17,743 deaths across the state.

As of Monday night, 3,553 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and of those, 757 patients were in the ICU and 409 patients were on ventilators, according to state health officials.

Ezike acknowledged the decision to be vaccinated is “intensely personal” and that some people will never choose to do so, but she believes more people will opt in as the number of first and second doses administered rises.

“I hope that will move the needle – pun intended. We will continue to put that education out. I want you to continue asking questions,” she said, adding IDPH and local public health departments are hosting town halls about the vaccine. “Hopefully after you get the facts, you will get the vax,” she said.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases is 7.5%, — down from 8.5% a week ago, according to IDPH data.

The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity is 8.6%, according to state health officials. That number is higher in both suburban Cook County (9.8%) and Chicago (10.1%), according to IDPH regional data.

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]


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