On Feb. 11, the Illinois Senate Health Committee met virtually for the first time to discuss Illinois’ ongoing vaccine rollout. However, much to the frustration of Republican members on the committee, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike had a schedule conflict and was unavailable to address many of the questions from Committee members.
After making a brief presentation and fielding approximately 15 minutes of questions, Dr. Ezike left the committee meeting. With several Republican lawmakers’ questions unanswered, State Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) and State Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) came together with other Republican members of the Senate Health Committee to issue a letter to Dr. Ezike on Feb. 16 asking her to address a few of their more pressing points of concern.
“The entire situation is frustrating to say the least,” said Sen. Plummer. “For the first time in months, lawmakers are finally back to work, but here we are again being ignored while the people of this state continue to suffer. We can’t fix the issue if Gov. Pritzker and his Administration won’t work with us. I'm disappointed that Dr. Ezike couldn’t find enough time to prioritize this meeting when vulnerable citizens continue to live day-by-day in fear.”
The letter asks that Dr. Ezike provide answers to the following questions:
- While we are happy that the Governor has heeded our calls to expand Phase 1B vaccine eligibility to include individuals with comorbidities, underlying conditions, and disabilities, why must these vulnerable individuals wait until Feb. 25 to begin receiving the vaccine when inmates will begin to receive the vaccine on Feb. 15?
- Why has Illinois lagged so far behind other states of comparable size in the amount of people per capita that have received at least one dose?
- According to the Administration’s Restore Illinois plan, for Illinois to enter Phase 5, the following must be met: Either a vaccine must be developed to prevent additional spread of COVID-19, a treatment option is readily available that ensures health care capacity is no longer a concern, or there are no new cases over a sustained period. How do you define “readily available” and can you tell us what constitutes a “sustained period”?
- We are having trouble understanding the lack of information being made available to legislators, legislative staff and reporters trying to do their jobs. In the spirit of transparency, will IDPH commit to publishing additional data to the COVID-19 website regarding weekly vaccine allocation to local health departments (which is different from LHD inventory), the number and percentage of individuals receiving one vaccine shot, and the number of vaccine doses the state is holding in reserve?
- What information is being used to determine each local health department’s weekly allocation of vaccine doses and who is making the final decision?
“The questions are simply about providing the public with much-needed transparency and holding the Administration accountable for their actions,” said Sen. Bryant. “Illinois is lagging behind nationally in terms of the vaccine rollout, vulnerable citizens do not have access to the vaccine, and communities aren’t receiving enough vaccinations to protect their residents. And we want to know why. Dr. Ezike may think these questions can go unanswered, but I disagree.”
The Spokesperson for the Senate Health Committee adjourned the Committee on Feb. 11. As of now, no future Health Senate meetings have been scheduled.