As Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week delivered his annual State of the State address in Springfield, he highlighted the challenges COVID-19 presented, but bolstered his administration’s response to the pandemic by claiming Illinois leads the way in vaccination rates compared to the rest of the Midwest.

“One thing we can all do right now is continue rising to the challenge of combating the pandemic head on. And we are,” he said. “A larger percentage of Illinoisans have been vaccinated than in any other Midwestern state.”

The statement reminded us of one Pritzker made last year when he said Illinois was the “vaccine leader among the 10 most populous states in the country.” We rated that claim Half True.

So we thought we’d see exactly what the governor meant when he made this most recent claim.

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh referred us to the Centers for Disease Control’s vaccination data tracker. She first pointed out that Illinois has vaccinated more people than its neighboring states: Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Michigan.

But the Midwest is bigger than just those states contiguous to Illinois. It also includes Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Ohio, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which doesn’t include Kentucky as a Midwest state.

When asked for clarification, Abudayyeh said Illinois is ahead of neighboring states and the entire Midwest in terms of vaccinated residents and drew a distinction between total residents who had received at least one vaccination shot versus those who are fully vaccinated with two shots or even those who have gotten an additional “booster” shot.

“The Governor never said among fully vaccinated,” Abudayyeh said in an email. “He said we are leading the Midwest in vaccinations, which is true. More Illinoisans have received a vaccination than anywhere else in the Midwest.”

As we were checking Pritzker’s claim from Feb. 2, the governor echoed the sentiment during a press conference when he announced plans to end the indoor mask mandate by the end of February.

“More Illinoisans have gotten a COVID-19 shot than anywhere else in the Midwest,” Pritzker said on Feb. 9.

After the press conference, Abudayyeh clarified in an email to the BGA that by saying the state is leading in vaccinations, the governor is referring specifically to the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Data

So we checked the stats with an eye toward comparing Illinois’ vaccination rates to those in all 12 Midwestern states.

The CDC Data Tracker separates data into three categories: people who are fully vaccinated, people who have received at least one dose and people who have received a booster shot.

According to the CDC data, Illinois does have the highest Midwest percentage of people who have received at least one shot. On Feb. 2, 75.6% of Illinoisans reported having at least one dose. The nearest Midwestern states are South Dakota with 74% and Minnesota at 73.6%.

But in his Feb. 2 claim, Pritzker did not specify whether he counted only those with one dose, so we checked the data on those who have been fully vaccinated, and here is where his claim falls a bit short.

According to the CDC Data Tracker, one Midwestern state has had a consistently higher rate of people fully vaccinated: Minnesota.

On Feb. 2, 67.1% of residents in that state were fully vaccinated, compared to 66.4% in Illinois.

Our ruling

Pritzker said that “a larger percentage of Illinoisans have been vaccinated than in any other Midwestern state.”

There are many ways to measure vaccination rates — by single doses, people who have been fully vaccinated and those administered booster shots.

While his spokeswoman later clarified he meant the percentage of Illinoisans who had received a single dose of a COVID-19 shot, Pritzker’s initial statement could be interpreted as Illinois being the Midwest leader in those who are fully vaccinated. It is not.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Analisa Trofimuk was a reporter at the Illinois Answers Project (previously known as the Better Government Association) from 2021 to 2022.