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More Illinois Hospitals Get First Deliveries Of COVID-19 Vaccines

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some Illinois hospitals are getting their first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, but the number of vaccine doses promised to Illinois in the next two weeks has been cut in half.

A little after 6 a.m., nearly 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered to the loading dock at Edward Hospital. It was a historic and even emotional moment for some Edward Hospital employees.

"Finally, finally this is here," X-ray technician Patti Sullivan said.

The vaccines arrived via police escort; brown boxes filled with the long-awaited, future-changing shot.

"When I left this morning, my husband said, 'Have a good day,' and I said, 'Maybe I'll come home with a vaccine in my arm,'" Sullivan said, tears streaming down her face.

Sullivan has been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 from the very start, going to every coronavirus patient's room to take chest X-rays.

Soon, she'll have an extra layer of protection when she does the job.

"We've made it through it, and we've been here every day, and it's just finally a light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

Officials at Edward-Elmhurst Health System, which operates Edward Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital, originally expected to receive their first shipment of the vaccine on Tuesday, then Wednesday. Then they learned it wouldn't happen until Thursday morning.

"Today is momentous for us as we receive the vaccine. We begin to vaccinate our employees this afternoon, and it really for us represents the beginning of the end," said Edward-Elmhurst Health System CEO Mary Lou Mastro.

Each hospital is getting a total of 1,950 doses of the vaccine this week

As for why it took longer than expected, Mastro said, "there really was no delay."

"It's just that it took a lot of time to organize and deliver all of the vaccines to all of the hospitals throughout the state," she said.

Mastro said about 75 percent of employees have already stepped up to be vaccinated during the first round alone.

"We originally had no idea how many employees would be interested in the vaccine, and when we opened up the first 3,000 slots, they were filled within five hours," she said.

Sullivan is hoping the public will do the same when the time comes.

"Just get vaccinated. When you get your chance, get vaccinated," she said.

Vaccinations for employees at Edward Hospital begin at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Sullivan is looking forward to her time slot at 3:40 p.m.

Meantime, the first shipment of vaccines also arrived Thursday morning at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. They expect to start vaccinating staff members Friday morning.

The DuPage Medical Group also is off and running, distributing the vaccine to its medical workers after receiving its first shipment on Wednesday.

Following CDC guidelines, frontline healthcare workers will be vaccinated first.

As more shipments of Pfizer's vaccine come in, the DuPage Medical Group will store them in  special ultra-cold freezers which were ordered in August.

Thursday afternoon, healthcare workers who serve the Latinx community also will get the vaccine at Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park. The hospital treats many low-income residents who have one of the city's highest positivity rates of coronavirus.

The hospital intends to prioritize the group as part of their vaccination plan, starting with healthcare workers who directly work with the community.

Meantime, the federal government is cutting in half the amount of Pfizer vaccines headed to states the next two weeks.

The initial estimate of 8 million doses scheduled for distribution next week has been reduced to 4.3 million. Another 8.8 million doses scheduled to be delivered to states a week after that also has been cut to 4.3 million doses.

Gov. JB Pritzker said that means deliveries to Illinois also will be cut in half the weeks of Christmas and New Year's.

The governor called the reduction in vaccine shipments disappointing news for the state's effort to fight COVID-19.

"I now no longer fully believe projections that are put in front of us by the federal government," Pritzker said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services released the following statement regarding the the number of incoming doses to CBS 2:

"Operation Warp Speed allocation numbers locked in with states have not been changed or adjusted. Only three official allocations have been provided to states: Week 1 Pfizer allocations were provided Friday, Nov. 20; week 1 Moderna allocations were provided Friday, Nov. 27; and week 2 Pfizer allocations were provided Tuesday, Dec. 14. Those are the only official allocation numbers that have been provided.

Jurisdictions are allocated doses pro rata by population over 18 years old. Allocations will depend on the amount of vaccine available. Each week, OWS will let states know how many doses are available to order against for the coming week. Shipments to a jurisdiction may arrive over several days.

Operation Warp Speed remains on track to allocate enough vaccine for about 20 million Americans to receive their first doses before the end of the month, pending Moderna receiving an EUA."

While it is a major setback for the Pfizer drug late month, the Moderna drug should be coming online next week and those impacted weeks.

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