Vexed by 'too little' supply, DuPage opening vaccine clinic at the county fairgrounds Wednesday
DuPage County leaders visited a vaccination hub opening Wednesday in Wheaton to call for greater scrutiny of the state's distribution strategy and to push for more funding for the rollout.
Federal lawmakers joined public health officials Tuesday in announcing plans to move a mass vaccination clinic from the DuPage health department offices to the county fairgrounds.
The expansion comes as DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin expressed dismay and frustration over how the state doles out doses from the federal government.
"Despite repeated requests for information about the strategy to distribute the vaccine that is coming in to the state, we have not been able to determine whether DuPage County is receiving our fair share, or frankly how the state is even deciding where the vaccine should go," Cronin said.
Public health officials say their efforts are also hindered by an unpredictable weekly allotment of vaccines.
The county has identified nearly 100 health care providers capable of delivering at least 50,000 doses each week. But only 42 of those providers are able to receive doses because of scarce supplies, health department Executive Director Karen Ayala said.
The county's allocation varies between 10,000 to 14,000 doses every week.
"Our own supply week to week is far too little and incredibly inconsistent," Cronin said. "We cannot adequately serve our partners and they cannot make appointments for the public if we don't know week to week how much vaccine we will receive.
"We understand the federal government has committed to a three-week forecast of vaccine availability and have shared this with the state, but the state doesn't share it with us. We cannot effectively serve our residents if we don't have the information we need."
Jordan Abudayyeh, Gov. J.B. Pritzker's spokeswoman, said "the state is also managing a very limited allotment of doses and has to make sure local health departments are going through their inventory in a quick and efficient manner."
As of last Friday, DuPage had 28,386 doses available for use, with 6,401 for the health department and 21,985 with providers, according to state vaccine inventory data released every week.
"We are allocating the majority of our supply to our partner providers," Ayala said.
DuPage also leads the Chicago collar counties in COVID-19 vaccinations. The county has 2.88% of its population fully vaccinated with the required two doses, according to state records.
While lauding that milestone, Cronin is advocating for additional funding to bolster the vaccination campaign. The state just approved the county's grant request for $2.5 million. The grant comes from the first round of funding provided by the federal government to the Illinois Department of Public Health for vaccine distribution.
"The administration of vaccine to hundreds of millions across our country in the coming months is the challenge of our lifetime," Cronin said. "I sincerely hope leaders in Washington and Springfield will commit the resources to ensure our success."
U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville said the next COVID-19 relief bill "must include significant funding to accelerate vaccine administration with a particular focus on providing vaccine doses and outreach to ensure that nobody, nobody is left behind."
Underwood attended the clinic's unveiling at the county fairgrounds with U.S. Reps. Sean Casten of Downers Grove and Bill Foster of Naperville.
Foster also struck an optimistic tone, saying by the end of this month, there's a "good chance" that a third vaccine could be authorized by federal regulators.
The county health department, meanwhile, had been operating its vaccine clinic at its Wheaton offices since the third week of December. The site was focused on distributing doses to medical workers not affiliated with health care systems in the first wave of inoculations. It also could administer up to 2,000 doses weekly, or roughly 400 people a day.
"We continue working through the thousands of remaining health care personnel on our registration list," Ayala said.
By moving the clinic to the fairgrounds, the health department could potentially vaccinate up to 5,000 people per week, depending on the supply. Seniors who are 65 and older and front-line essential workers are eligible for shots.
The appointment-only clinic will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
The county is encouraging residents to sign up for updates on appointment availability through a registration portal at Dupagehealth.org/covid19vaccine. Anyone who does not have internet access or needs help with registering can call the health department at (630) 682-7400.