Mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Batavia to open Friday

Kane County's first COVID-19 mass vaccination hub will open Friday in Batavia, and officials believe its proximity to Aurora and Elgin will help address racial and ethnic disparities for vaccinations among Black and Hispanic residents compared to their white neighbors.

Meanwhile, the quantity of vaccines coming into the county has shown a marked increase in recent weeks. On March 5, the county hit 100,000 doses issued. Two weeks later, the county was set to hit 150,000 doses on Wednesday, officials said.

Many of those shots have occurred at various pop-up clinics and health department events targeting first responders, teachers and senior citizens. Local hospitals, doctors' offices and pharmacies, which are also now receiving some of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, have also helped increase the pace of vaccines getting out to the local community.

The new Batavia mass vaccination site, at 501 N. Randall Road, will be open six days a week and is expected to serve 18,000 people per week and ramp up from there. It is a vacant retail building that most recently housed a Sam's Club.

“We are still seeing a situation where we have much more demand than supply, but that's getting better,” said Michael Isaacson, deputy director of the county health department.

Isaacson said the county is earmarking 30% of the doses it receives for senior citizens, Black and Hispanic residents. However, the Batavia site will not reserve appointment slots specifically for those underserved groups. It will take appointments regardless of racial and ethnic demographics.

The shots specially reserved for minority groups will go out through special events at workplaces that employ large groups of minorities or places that attract minorities, such as an event hosted at a Mexican grocery store and a clinic organized with the African-American Health Coalition in Aurora, officials said.

The latest numbers show limited progress in addressing the racial and ethnic disparities in the last month. State numbers show 11.7% of the doses distributed to Kane County residents have gone to Hispanic residents. That's up from about 10% a month ago. And 2.98% of the doses have gone to Black residents, up from 2.7% a month ago.

“We're starting to move in the right direction, but there's still a lot of outreach that needs to continue to occur,” Isaacson said. “We are continuing our work with other community partners to make sure we are encouraging all of our residents to get vaccinated. This is going to be something that each week I fully expect to see improvement.”

Minority residents in the north end of the county continue to call for better access to the vaccines. Their frustration increased after plans to open a second mass vaccination clinic in Carpentersville collapsed when the Illinois Public Health Department and the Illinois National Guard determined the single site in Batavia would be sufficient.

For many residents on the north end of the county, the commute to Batavia can be 40 minutes or longer, and that's only if they have personal transportation.

Isaacson said the county health department is negotiating with local school districts for access to their buses, as well as Pace, to make sure those who need to use public transportation to reach Batavia can do so for free.

Details about how to access those buses should be finalized in the next couple of days.

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