ILLINOIS (WTWO/WAWV) —In Edgar County, Illinois, Public Health Department Assistant Administrator Monica Dunn spends most of her work days facilitating the COVID vaccine rollout in her community.
“They are desperate to get a vaccine, and we’re desperate to give them the vaccine,” she said of local residents.
So far, the county has fully vaccinated nearly 5.8% of its population, but Dunn said the county is capable of vaccinating more people than they are currently.
The issue? Dunn said supply isn’t meeting demand.
“We are having a hard time vaccinating even a fraction of our 1B population due to inadequate supplies of the vaccine,” Dunn said.
Illinois’ 1B eligibility group consists of people 65 and older and non-health care frontline essential workers. This includes teachers, agricultural workers, manufacturing employees, along with some other groups. The state’s 1A phase consisted of health care workers and long-term care facility residents.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health website, the state moved to the 1B phase once “Phase 1a was substantially completed,” but Clark County Health Department Administrator Cathy Hayden said they too are not seeing enough vaccines to adequately vaccinate the community.
Clark County has so far fully vaccinated 4.3% of its population.
“Our allocations are very low,” Hayden said, “In the first week of the shipments, we were one of the 50 counties that were designated to receive the vaccine, and that was due to the high death rate. We did not get our vaccine, the vaccine was reallocated.”
Dunn experienced a similar re-routing of vaccine, which raised concerns for her as well as community members she spoke with that week.
“We were told that our allocation had been redirected to another county, and that was really all of the information,” Dunn shared, “This did happen after the entire state moved to the 1B population. Of course, that’s very frustrating and sends a conflicting message to the public. They’re thinking our state moved to 1B, why are you telling me that our vaccine was redirected to a place to do their 1A population?”
Re-routing of COVID vaccines causes concerns in Edgar County:
Senator Dan McConchie said he’s aware of the re-routing of vaccine shipments from one county to another, but that he has not gotten an answer as to why that’s happening.
“There hasn’t been a lot of transparency in regards to that,” McConchie said, “All we’re being told is there is “need elsewhere.” There’s been a lack of transparency, generally, in regards to the way this has been rolled out.”
McConchie added that he’s noticed a disparity between the allotment of vaccines in counties.
“I have a couple counties up here in the Chicago suburbs, for example, with large population centers and there was no transparency as to how many doses they were getting and why,” McConchie said, referencing the 26th District, “You had one county getting 41% more on a per capita basis than another county, and still no explanation as to why, and that’s been very frustrating.”
What led to Sen. McConchie’s recent meeting with local health departments:
McConchie said lack of transparency also became an issue when opening up vaccine eligibility and determining what groups would be able to get the shot first.
“This is part of the problem with the rollout from the beginning,” McConchie said, “We’ve prioritized various groups of people, and the people that have been left behind, which I’m most concerned with from an equity standpoint, those left behind are the sickest among us.”
Both Edgar and Clark counties expect to receive shipments on a weekly basis. Dunn and Hayden both answer directly to calls from the public, with a lot of those calls coming from the vulnerable elderly population.
How are COVID vaccine-related calls processed in Clark County?
“We have a list of over 2,000 people who pre-registered who are in that 65 and older population,” Dunn said, “And they all have high-risk medical conditions. So, we have determined that the best thing we can do is work through that list from the oldest down to age 65 and we’re doing our best to get them in as quickly as possible.”
Hayden said Clark County has “pretty much” gotten through the 75+ population and has been able to begin “dipping down” to 68-year-olds.
Hayden added that she is hopeful that the opening of more vaccine locations in the county, like the upcoming Walmart vaccination site, will help with meeting demand. Dunn, meanwhile, voiced concerns of being overlooked in favor of pharmacy allocations.
“State and locals are being bypassed in favor of this pharmacy program,” Dunn said, “My request would just be, you approved these plans, work with your state and locals to do what they have planned to do.”
The ECPHD is asking that people not call for COVID vaccine registration, but check for a registration link on the department’s website.
The CCHD can be reached at (217) 382-4207.
Mywabashvalley.com did reach out to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s team for comment and has not received a response.
For more information on the COVID vaccine rollout, plus the latest data on vaccine distribution in our local counties, you can visit the IDPH’s website.