Smokers are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois

Smokers are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — If you smoke cigarettes, you are considered eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois right now.

Smokers are in Phase 1B+ of the state’s vaccine rollout.

Even some smokers don’t think they should be one of the few groups to get a life-saving shot right now.

“I think an underlying health condition should probably be something diagnosed by a doctor,” Springfield resident Tim said. “Just because you got a bad habit, that shouldn’t bump you up in the line for it.”

A statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) says:

In accordance with the CDC and ACIP’s guidance regarding eligible populations for vaccinations, we recognize individuals with certain underlying medical conditions, including smoking and obesity, are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, regardless of their age. Severe illness means that the person with COVID-19 may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or that they are at increased risk of dying. Early vaccine access is essential to ensuring the health and safety of this population that is disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Dr. Donald Graham, a COVID-19 advisor for Sangamon County, recommends people follow as many health habits as they can, but that’s not always the case.

“The fact is we really don’t want anybody to die,” Graham said. “People who have had some difficulties with their health, no matter what the cause was, we’d rather keep them alive and maybe they can convert to a more healthy lifestyle after all that.”

Phase 1B+ includes those who are at least 16 years old with disabilities or underlying health conditions, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart conditions
  • Immunosuppressed states from a solid organ transplant
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Sickle cell disease
    Springfield resident Dashonne Blue wants her uncle to get the vaccine after he got COVID-19.

“I know he got sick because he already has sickle cell anemia,” Blue said. “I think if he gets it, it will help him. I do.”

How does a person prove they are a smoker or are eligible to get the vaccine in Phase 1B+?

Some vaccine sites are trusting that you will be honest about your condition.

“In Springfield, we follow the ‘honesty is the best policy.’ It’s just about impossible to do all that checking,” Graham said. “In the long run, though, you just have to look at yourself and say, ‘Do I deserve to be in this group or not?’ I think we have to be trusting.”

Graham said he does not think many local health departments or the mass vaccination site at the Illinois State Fairgrounds have the resources to be able to check. However, hospitals and medical groups do have that ability.

The state expanded Phase 1B+ on Feb. 25. It allows an extra 3.4 million people across Illinois to become eligible for the vaccine.

By Tessa Bentulan of Fox Illinois