How DuPage County will launch next wave of vaccinations

As DuPage County prepares to move to the next wave of COVID-19 vaccinations, medical providers are finalizing plans to get scarce shots into the arms of seniors and essential workers.

The county is set to formally transition to Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout on Monday, expanding inoculations to people 65 and older, along with front-line workers.

Health care systems are working out the details on when and where older patients will roll up their sleeves for shots.

DuPage Medical Group will begin making appointments for those who are eligible for vaccines in Phase 1b, starting Monday.

The system is developing a central vaccination site that could open in mid- to late February in the Lisle area, said Dr. Donald Hoscheit, chief medical officer.

DuPage Medical has more than 150,000 patients over the age of 65. Countywide, the DuPage health department estimates 268,000 people are eligible for vaccines in the next distribution phase.

So far, DuPage has fully vaccinated more than 1.5% of its population - more than any other county in Illinois, state health department figures show.

But public health officials stress that those next in line will have to patiently wait their turn.

The health department expects it could take three months to finish vaccinating everyone who can access doses in Phase 1b because of a "very limited supply" across the country.

On average, DuPage is receiving and distributing a total of 13,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses a week. Both require two shots given weeks apart.

The state has not released guidelines for prioritizing people within the Phase 1b category. Anyone eligible will be able to schedule appointments as the vaccine supply increases, a county health department spokeswoman said.

As a result, health care providers are left to internally prioritize patients based on their risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

DuPage Medical Group has used electronic medical records to start the registration process and identify the most vulnerable patients, prioritizing those who are at highest risk of hospitalization should they contract COVID-19.

"We can actually stratify to some degree the highest risk of the high-risk patients, and with the intent that as we move to Phase 1b, we can intentionally reach out to those folks and see if we get them in," Hoscheit said.

The Lisle-area vaccination site is slated to open as an appointment-only, walk-in clinic next month. It will be separate from the system's main clinical facilities, Hoscheit said.

The vaccine venue also will join two others that launched for the first round of inoculations and will eventually evolve into Phase 1b sites, Hoscheit said.

About two-thirds of DuPage Medical employees have been vaccinated, and about half of those people have received their second dose.

The system now can deliver approximately 500 doses a day, or about 3,000 a week.

"We're making plans to have 15,000 vaccines given per week," Hoscheit said.

"The hope is that we'll have the supply of the vaccine."

The system is using its MyChart patient portal as a primary tool to reach patients and will be contacting the most vulnerable older patients who do not have MyChart accounts to help them through the scheduling process, according to a spokeswoman.

"When they're in the doctor's office, we can make an appointment for them," Hoscheit said of patients who don't have access to computers to sign up online. "When they arrive at a vaccination site, we're going to have kiosks that will allow staff to help them enter in the information."

In Phase 1b, Edward-Elmhurst Health will offer the vaccine to patients 65 and older who are at highest risk, spokesman Keith Hartenberger said.

"If a patient uses a physician of Edward-Elmhurst Medical Groups (EEMG) for their primary care, we'll contact them as soon as we have a vaccine available so they can schedule a vaccination appointment," Hartenberger said in a statement.

"For those who aren't EEMG patients or haven't seen a physician in a while, we recommend seeking another option for getting vaccinated, including local health departments or a retail pharmacy such as CVS or Walgreens."

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