Vaccine sites opening for 20,000 Lake County educators, school staffers
A directed effort to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to 20,000 Lake County educators and school staff members is underway.
The first of two vaccine sites, which are not open to the general public, opened Wednesday with 450 vaccines administered at Round Lake High School.
"We can handle a lot more," said Donn Mendoza, superintendent of Round Lake Area Unit District 116.
Vaccinations are scheduled to begin Friday at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.
Potentially as many as 2,000 shots on a given day can be administered at each location. They are made available as supply allows for teachers and others working in public and private schools.
"We should be able to vaccinate all pre-K through 12 staffs during the next 10 weeks assuming vaccine availability," said Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department.
"We want our schools to be open, and this is one tool to get them open," he said.
Early in the pandemic, representatives from Lake County school districts began meeting weekly with Pfister to get a handle on data and other information involving the coronavirus.
Meetings in recent months have focused on a vaccine program for teachers and other school workers.
"We didn't want all our school districts trying to fend for themselves, trying to get vaccines," said Bob Gold, superintendent at Big Hollow Elementary District 38 in Ingleside. Gold heads the Lake County superintendents organization.
The health department administers vaccinations at the Lake County Fairgrounds but is concentrating on those aged 65 and older. It also distributes vaccinations and is partnering with other entities, like manufacturing companies, to have it administered at various locations.
"We're able to get vaccines into our educators' arms quicker than if we didn't do this. It's been a huge project," Gold said.
Round Lake and Stevenson high schools were selected as being centrally located. The collaborative effort involves faculties and staffs at both schools, although all districts will share related costs.
About 50 to 60 people are needed to staff the Round Lake location, including those who draw and administer vaccines, screeners and other functions. The workers are a combination of school district and health department staff members and contracted workers, Mendoza said.
"We have 18 screening stations and 12 vaccination stations running all at once," he said. "Stevenson is bigger."
Teachers and anyone who works for a school, from bus drivers to librarians to custodians, are among those in Phase 1B now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The group includes those 65 and over and front-line essential workers.
Vaccinations are by appointment only and require registration on Lake County's AllVax portal. Appointments are set by when people signed up and not on a school-by-school or district-by-district basis. Two systems are in place to verify identities, Pfister said.
While many districts have returned to the classroom in a hybrid mode, District 116 has been in remote learning all year. March 8 is the earliest students could return, but that will depend on the COVID metrics, Mendoza said.
Elsewhere, Walgreens last weekend conducted separate vaccine clinics for Deerfield District 109 and Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 as part of a limited program.
In District 73, 91% of the staff of 545 was vaccinated, according to school officials.
Those eligible for Phase 1B, such as teachers, can make appointments through Walgreens' updated appointment scheduler at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, said company spokesman Fraser Engerman.