Sangamon County will begin Monday vaccinating seniors over 65 and essential frontline workers against COVID-19, the next priority group behind healthcare workers.
But county officials say all appointments are booked through January 24, and they won’t be able to open new appointments until they receive more doses from the state health department.
“The biggest hold up is availability of vaccine on a regular basis, on a consistent basis,” Sangamon County Department of Public Health Director Gail O’Neill told members of the public health board Wednesday. “We’ve got questions out to the state on that.”
When available, appointments are made on the county health department’s website or by calling 217-321-2606.
The county health department released its vaccine distribution plan Wednesday that outlined how the health department and local medical providers will inoculate the estimated 155,738 adults who are eligible get the shots.
Around 9,400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in Sangamon County, according to a new tracker published by the county health department. That means about 6% of the population have gotten at least their first shot. Nearly 1,000 people have gotten both shots.
A county spokesperson said it’s unclear if that 9,400, which is provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health, includes residents and staff of area long-term care facilities. The facilities are receiving vaccines from a federal program that contracts with CVS and Walgreens.
The health department aims to give 290 doses daily at its vaccination clinic. The clinic is open seven days a week. For now, it’s inside the health department at 2833 South Grand Ave. E., but will move to a drive-thru clinic next week.
Residents who are in Phase 1a, medical providers including doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, pharmacists and home-health workers, and those in Phase 1b, including seniors over 65, teachers, first responders and other frontline workers, can sign up for an appointment to get the shot from the county health department when appointments become available.
The county estimates nearly 13,000 residents qualify the Phase 1a group, while 45,600 are in Phase 1b. Lists of who qualifies for each are on IDPH's webiste.
O’Neill and Dr. Brian Miller, chair of the Sangamon County Public Health Board, lamented the slow pace of vaccine distribution from the state.
Miller said the health department is working with HSHS St. John’s, Memorial Medical Center, SIU School of Medicine and Springfield Clinic on a mass vaccination plan, which could administer a minimum of 1,500 doses a day.
“There are obviously issues involved with traffic, and security and personnel and registration – but the choke point was going to be the amount of vaccine available,” Miller said.
Miller said the draft plan has been sent to the state health department in the hopes of getting a larger distribution.
Vaccine Clinic Details
Sangamon County’s vaccine clinic is open seven days a week, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., by appointment only. O’Neill said the appointments ensure no vaccine dose goes to waste.
For most people, they can expect the process to take around 30 minutes. This includes checking in and providing insurance or third-party payer information. The health department won’t turn people away if they don’t have this information, according to the vaccination plan. The health department will not charge a fee to the person receiving the shot, but will send a bill to their insurance for $23.63.
The patient must be monitored by nursing staff for 15 minutes after the shot is given, 30 minutes for people with a history of allergies, for any adverse reactions.
All vaccinations will be tracked in the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange (I-CARE). Records will be confidential, but can be shared with medical providers. The system will make it easy to track who is due for the second dose and will send reminder emails to schedule an appointment.
The county plans to spend around $1 million to run the clinic over the next six months, with the majority used to pay staff.
Mary Hansen is a reporter for NPR Illinois/WUIS. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @maryfhansen.