Sluggish rollout of COVID-19 vaccine frustrates Kane County residents, board members
Kane County residents are deluging county board members with questions about when they can get a COVID-19 vaccine, and why they haven't been able to get one yet.
The answer is it will be months before most residents can get a shot.
County board members expressed frustration Tuesday about a lack of information about the status of vaccination efforts. Board member Vern Tepe said Florida officials' decision to start vaccinating all residents 65 and older fueled a spike in his constituents wanting a shot.
"People are seeing the rush to get the vaccine in Flordia, with lines that are days long, and they're saying, 'What's happening here?'" Tepe said. "And I'm going to say, well, be patient? That's not very satisfying. And it certainly does not make this body look good. We need more information, and we need it now."
The Kane County Public Health Department released information Monday showing 16,045 doses given to phase 1a recipients -- including health care workers and nursing home residents -- to date. County officials said they currently have more vaccines to give. Those who received the first shot will receive the second dose the first week of February.
County board chair Corinne Pierog said not everyone eligible to receive the vaccine in the 1a round received a shot. Some nursing home residents and health care workers opted out. That includes 40% of the staff at one Kane County hospital, which Pierog did not identify. Some who opted out may have done so because they don't work directly with patients.
Those who didn't receive or take a vaccine in the 1a category will remain first in line for incoming doses.
The county plans to open up vaccines to those in the 1b category within the next two weeks. That includes approximately 75,000 Kane County residents who are 65 or older. First responders and essential workers are also in 1b, making it an exponentially larger pool of eligible people.
County staff is developing a scheduling and appointment system to accommodate such a large number. Residents can sign up to receive an email about when more vaccine is available. The system will also screen residents to see if they qualify for 1a or 1b priority and set them up for vaccine appointments.
County residents who don't fall into either group will likely not be able to receive a vaccine until the spring, according to the county health department.
County board members recognized that's not going to be a popular answer.
"We don't have it," county board member John Martin said of additional vaccine doses. "What we've got, we've distributed. When we get more, we'll distribute that. And we don't have any control over when we get it."
Most of the delay stems from a nationwide shortage of doses to meet the demand. County officials said doses sporadically trickle in.
The other part of the problem is the still-developing distribution network. For instance, there are only two Jewel-Osco stores in Kane County that have met qualifications to receive and distribute vaccines. Local Walmart and CVS stores are also working to upgrade their facilities to handle the doses, many of which require freezers capable of temperatures as low as -92 degrees.
Pierog said the county is expediting infrastructure and distribute efforts.
"We don't want the long lines we've seen in Florida," she said. "We don't want a bunch of people sitting in the car overnight in their pajamas in this cold waiting to get the vaccine. We want to make sure we're doing it in an appropriate, methodical method where everyone is able to make an appointment and receives the vaccine in a timely and efficient manner. If we don't do it right we're going to cost people's lives."