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!
Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to the COVID-19 update for Tuesday, December the eighth. At the end of last week, Ngozi Ezike and I provided an update on what the early stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout will look like here in Illinois. This morning, the FDA released its analysis of the Pfizer bio intech vaccine ahead of the December 10 meeting of the vaccine advisory group to discuss the findings. So today I want to directly address those of you who may be hesitant to take a vaccine because you have questions about how quickly this came to be. Let me begin with the fact that there have been decades of research on Coronavirus is broadly like the spur of research following the 2003 SARS COVID.
One epidemic, researchers at the National Institutes of Health, our national publicly funded medical research agency and across the nation have made major strides in evaluating spike proteins in other kinds of coronaviruses over the years, laying the groundwork for these new COVID-19 vaccines, and allowing the current vaccine developers to move as fast as they have. So in the early months of this pandemic, starting last January with the release of the genetic sequence of the virus that causes covid 19. Researchers the world over immediately jumped on how to best approach this virus using vaccine technology.
From there, and long before any of these vaccine candidates come close to any humans, they’re tested repeatedly in laboratories and on animals. You may remember back in the spring, we saw articles about how COVID-19 vaccines were fairing on monkeys and mice. In the example of Pfizer, researchers in the United States and Germany, evaluated for different vaccine candidates to see what demonstrated the most effective and safe early results. Once a vaccine passes, early safety protocols clinical trials begin. And again, these are designed in accordance with what the FDA requires from a vaccine candidate, meaning they are rigorously evaluated and meticulously documented for when the FDA ultimately begins its review. When human trials begin for us drug development.
Everything is reviewed extensively by institutional review boards. These are independent groups of scientists who help ensure the integrity of the clinical research, both from the standpoint of scientific validity, and the protection of participating individuals. These independent scientists review a trial before it begins and periodically as it occurs with a sole focus on protecting the rights and welfare of the human participants.
They can require modifications, or even disapprove a research project altogether. Phase One clinical trials per the FDA might include anywhere from 20 to 100 or so volunteers who have not had prior exposure to the disease. In this pandemic, the Pfizer vaccine alone ran a much larger than usual phase one trial of 195 people. One group of trial participants receives a placebo, and another group received one of two vaccine candidates from their researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the candidates in terms of immune response, as well as reported side effects. And they chose to proceed with the most effective of those two options with the least potential side effects. But no matter which candidate people received, no participants recorded any serious adverse side effects.
And phase one is just the beginning of the human testing that’s involved. Phase two involves an even larger group of participants to cover a more diverse population, and observe if there are any further adverse reactions. In July, Pfizer began recruiting for its final phase three testing of more than 40,000 people, including those up to age 85, giving us months of data from the final phase alone. What the FDA is looking at for these trials is additional information on common short term side effects and risks. The relationship between the dosage side And the immune response and the comparison to the placebo group. The Pfizer vaccine did extraordinarily well, reaching an efficacy rate of 95% in participants, and even 94%. In those over 65. Almost all patients experienced little to no undesirable side effects from the vaccine, with Pfizer reporting that the most severe effects that people experienced were fatigue and headache, both in under 4% of cases.
The United States Federal Drug Administration proudly considers itself to have the safest most thorough review processes in the world. And the world views the FDA in that way too. On November 20, Pfizer submitted its data, literally 10s of 1000s of pages worth to the FDA, which takes that raw information and combs through it again, with the specific purpose of never relying on any conclusion that the company came to. It will reduce statistical calculations and entirely reevaluate months of safety data, working days, nights and weekends, all with the goal of evaluating clinical effectiveness, antibody levels, and safety.
FDA analysts will also pour over the entire production, manufacturing and operations enterprise, examining the facilities and protocols for consistency and for safety. So exactly what will the December 10 meeting entail? Well, it’s a review of conclusions reached by an entirely independent body of vaccine experts from outside the FDA, who have looked at all of the FDA findings and Pfizer’s findings. Again, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Illinois will only distribute a vaccine that is deemed safe. And we are one of many states that have established additional review panels, including Indiana, California, New York, West Virginia and Michigan. Our Illinois team is already poring over the analysis released by the FDA on the Pfizer bio n tech vaccine this morning.
We all want to make sure this vaccine is safe. And additional sets of eyes on the evidence can only be helpful. As much as I can stand up here and talk about the incredible collaboration and effort that went into ensuring as safe a process as possible. It’s even better for you to be able to hear it directly from someone who experienced the trials firsthand. So I’m so glad to be joined today by one of the first participants to roll up their sleeves for the moderna vaccine trial site, right here at the University of Illinois, Chicago, joining us because she wants to share her story and the mission that drove her first to participate in the trial, and then to speak out about it. Previously a senior case manager in the HIV program at Providence Hospital of Cook County, Bonnie Blue, now 68 years old, has lived a life dedicated to the health and wellness of others. Her selfless spirit, frankly, is inspiring. So take it away, Bonnie.
Thank you, Governor. Well, this virus has really shaped in the world. It’s not a flu, it’s not something that can, you can easily recover from. I have spent the majority of my life actually since I was 19 years old, working to exist, my asthma has caused me to be on life support at least 13 times, most of which I don’t recall. But what I do recall is when you are sick like that, it’s important to have friends and family and even healthcare professionals that are there to hold your hand to say something to make you smile, to make you feel like you’re going to be alright. Unfortunately, with this virus, they don’t patients don’t have that option.
Their parents are not able to be there for them. The children aren’t there to kiss the parents on the forehead when they’re on life support. And because of this drain that our medical staff is under, we don’t have the nurses or others hospital personnel that can even hold the phone to that patient’s ear so they can hear it. a loved one. So that’s why it’s ultra important for us to stay as safe and as healthy as we possibly can. Now, this, these trials were not something that I was planning to do, I was among the large group of people that were of the mindset of our wait a year to, and then now try it. But after I saw so many numbers just growing, growing, growing each number and this may sound odd. Each number I attach that first woman that died in Illinois, then woman’s face, and I, unfortunately, I don’t remember her name, but I remember her face. And for each of those numbers that we see daily growing, we’re seeing that woman, that man, that child, those are families that are not going to be here. And before there were dressings available, okay, we had options for my asthma, the options or tools that were given to me to help me live where I couldn’t have peds. I couldn’t have carpeting or curtains.
The science community has given us things to help us live through this virus. mask. Simple. Put it on, okay. And if you don’t like the plain little white ones, get a nice little cute one with colors. But make sure that is double layered, so that the virus has a more difficult time getting through, use your hand sanitizer, and love people from a distance. You can use your telephone to do or facetime or zoom, to have that one on one connection. But you want to be able to be alive. When is this vaccine, all of these vaccines roll out so that maybe by the end of the summer, we can get together and have all of the celebrations together. At that time. outside. Of course, you can celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, anniversaries all outside and still be alive.
Now for me, and I’m not going to take up all of your time. But for me, my body is fragile. That’s what I’ve been told by the doctors, but I do what I have to do. We all have to do what we have to do. And till these vaccines are widely available to us all. These are not vaccines that someone just whipped up in a couple of months. Because you know, we had a catchy name for it. No, these as the governor says this is something that has been studied over years. And fortunately, it’s a blessing to be able to have these here now for us, so that we can continue to live. So our children and our grandchildren and yes, for people like me, my great grandchildren will have the chance to spend time with me. And I can pass on our family cultures and traditions.
So what I am asking is, please do what you have to do to stay safe. When the vaccines become available. Please take it do your research. Find out more about it. Don’t just take my word for it. But look at me here for a person that has been on life support so many times. For me to take part in this trial was a huge risk, a risk that my family and friends were not happy that I was taking, but I’m here I am fine. I did not have horrible side effects from anything you know you have the little sweetie the little headache as the governor mentioned. But then those resolve and then you’re able to go on and live your life. So I’m really excited about this and and I am prayerful that people will do what most people say I will do anything for my family. So if you will do anything for your family survived, for your family, guide your family into doing what they need to do.
Thank you very much, Bonnie, thank you for sharing your story. It’s very inspiring. Honestly, Bonnie was one of the very first people to take the vaccine. She went through the trials, I got to share some time with her and hear her personal story. And I’m just, I’m very motivated by somebody who’s so giving, that they’re willing to step out there and be part of a trial like this, even though she had her own health challenges, unrelated and wanted people to know today that the vaccine that she took, the Madonna vaccine was safe for her. She’s had it for months now. I mean, literally, she was one of the first trial participants. So anyway, with that, I’d like to turn it over to Dr. And Gaza ck for today’s medical update.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike
Thank you, good afternoon, and a huge thank you to miss blue. Thank you for your willingness to be a part of science and a part of history and to help us end this pandemic sooner. By helping us eliminate the virus, we will be able to get back to a strong economy be able to get back to a normal sense of living, be able to have everyone in school all the time. Thank you for your participation in the clinical trial. I think you have accomplished with your visit today, more than we could accomplish in hours of standing up here. So thank you so much Miss blue. Today, we are reporting 7910 new individuals that were diagnosed with covid 19 for a total of 804,174 total individuals in Illinois with COVID-19. Over the last 24 hours idph has received notice of an additional 145 individuals that lost their battle with COVID for a total of 13,487. Illinoisans, no longer with us.
Overnight, 5199 individuals were in hospitals across the state with COVID. And of those 1071 were in the intensive care units of the hospital and 626 were on ventilators. In the last 24 hours, almost 96,000 tests have been reported for a total of more than 11 point 2 million tests this year. As the governor said safety is our top priority as we prepare for the rollout of this COVID-19 vaccine. And while the vaccine is coming, it is not going to be as much as we want and is not going to come out as quickly as we’d like. I would love to be able to snap our fingers and have everyone have it. But that’s not how it’s going to be the first groups to receive the vaccine will be our healthcare workers. And again, I’ve described that it’s a broad category. And it’s also the residents of long term care facilities.
However, due again, to the limited supply of this vaccine available in the US, it will take months to roll out the vaccine to the priority groups and even longer for it to be given to the general public. I ask that people be patient patience, we can only allocate the vaccine that we’re actually given. So we’re prioritizing those at greatest risk of exposure and severe illness. And then we will continue to move through those established priorities. I hope people will understand that yes, there will be people that will get the vaccine before you. But we are hoping for everyone to get this vaccine in the coming year. And while I love the clamor and all the questions about who will be first and who comes before who I know that there’s still another bunch that is completely anxious, and is wanting to take a serious pause.
There are others who are just hesitant, including some health care workers. I encourage people to look to the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices so that they can get all the information idph will be putting out we’ll continue to put out information about this vaccine as well. And we’ve been working with various community groups to make sure that everyone has the information they need to make an informed decision. Our path towards ending this pandemic is layered. There’s never been a single one off solution. Even vaccine alone is not going to do it. We still are going to need to wear our masks. We still are going to need to limit our gatherings and watch our distance but absolutely This vaccine is a key, a key weapon in our arsenal. And I can’t wait to make this available to as many people as possible. Without using these tried and true public health measures.
Without vaccination, this pandemic will extend longer than it needs to. That means taking more lives than it already has. It means destroying more businesses than it already has. And stealing more peace of mind than it already has. Let’s fight back and let’s do what it takes to get us to the end sooner. Thank you.