Last month in our post about vaccination planning, we briefly covered one aspect of vaccination planning, prioritization tiers.  Since then McDonough County has made so much progress in vaccination rollout that it’s worth another update!

What’s Changed?

IDPH has made several changes to Tier 1 since the initial rollout of the vaccine.  Tier 1 can be defined by two major categories: those who are high risk of serious complications from exposure to COVID-19, and those who serve in roles essential to societal function.  Overall, this definition of Tier 1 has not changed, however the prioritization order within this group had shuffled around quite a bit.

Image Description: Phases 1a, 1b, and 1c.

One of the biggest updates to the Tiers is that individuals over 65 are now in Tier 1b . This is sooner than previously anticipated, as this group was originally allocated to Phase 1c.   This also differs from the original CDC guidelines, which sets the recommended age for this tier at 75 and older instead.  Why would IDPH set the age 10 years younger than CDC guidelines?  In short, equity.  According to Illinois statistics, the average age of white individuals who die due to COVID-19 complications is 81.  Compare that to black and Hispanic Illinoisans, (72, 68, respectively), and one can see a major inequality emerging.  Setting the age of early vaccination to 65 instead of 75 is one way IDPH is helping to address racial disparity in health outcomes.

Essential Workers

Another major addition to Tier 1 is a more thorough breakdown of which essential workers are included in Tier 1b, including moving up some professions that were originally designated for Tier 2, such as transportation and K-12 teachers.  The full list of essential workers, in order that they will be eligible for vaccination, are as follows:

  • First Responders, including Law Enforcement, Firefighters not already covered by Tier 1a, and us here at ESDA!
  • Education, particularly K-12 school faculty and staff
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Manufacturing, including our local manufacturers such as Pella and
  • Corrections
  • United States Postal Service Workers
  • Public Transit Workers, such as Go West
  • Grocery Store Workers, including cashiers, stockers
  • Shelters including homeless shelters, women’s shelters and adult daycare

Once a group is substantially covered, the plan moves forward with the next group.  For example, as of posting this, a substantial amount of Tier 1a is covered, so our partners at McDonough District Hospital and McDonough County Health Department are setting up clinics for our First Responder community.  This methodical process helps create a procedure for getting limited supplies to those who need it the most.  Even when supplies become less limited, the tiers provide a solid strategy for getting the vaccine rolled out throughout the population.

What does it mean for me?

First, it means that regardless of your age or occupation, you have a place in line to get your COVID-19 vaccine.  Implementing this system avoids unfair “first come/first served” practices, and by the final tier everyone in the county will be covered.  A tiered system also helps with the logistical side of vaccination rollout.  For example, McESDA has been assisting with preparation of Tier 1b by gathering a census of essential workers and passing this data to our public health partners, who will in turn, use this data to estimate vaccine distribution and plan for clinics.  This way, waiting for a vaccine is less like waiting in a line, and more like a “fast pass” system, where you know you have a reservation later on in the process.

For further reading, we recommend the following pages:


CDC Phases:

McDonough County Health Department: (for the County’s current Phase)