Lake County pushing to get seniors vaccinated next week
Lake County's mass vaccination site was humming Friday with help from about a dozen local mayors, who volunteered to direct traffic and take on other tasks.
By the end of the day, health officials expected about 1,500 people to have driven through the spacious Expo Hall at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake for shots of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
"I figured this was a good opportunity to help some people," Hawthorn Woods Mayor Dominick DiMaggio said while directing post-vaccine traffic to a waiting spot in the huge parking lot.
Health officials dubbed it "Mayor's Day" as a prelude to "Seniors Week" starting Monday and a push to get seniors vaccinated.
Health officials want any seniors 65 and up who haven't gotten a shot to do so before April 12, when the eligibility list expands to anyone 16 and over.
"We wanted (to designate) Seniors Week to make sure everybody registered in AllVax knows we have an appointment reserved for them -- they just need to schedule it," said Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department.
The AllVax website is lakecountyil.gov/4521/COVID-19-Vaccine; the phone number is (847) 377-8130.
Vaccinating seniors has been a priority as the best way to prevent severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, Pfister said.
There are about 101,000 seniors 65 and older living in Lake County. According to the health department, 71% have received at least one dose and 43% are fully vaccinated.
That leaves as many as 30,000 seniors who have not received a vaccine or been vaccinated outside Illinois, Pfister said.
Residents are being asked to check on senior neighbors, family members or friends and help them register on AllVax, or a community vaccination site or at a pharmacy provider.
Offering a ride to the appointment, helping them find information on vaccination options or answers to questions or concerns also is suggested.
Seniors Week will be filled with events to promote vaccination such as radio interviews, Facebook Live discussions and behind-the-scenes content on social media.
Vaccine site options in Lake County have been increasing with more planned, including a 5,000-dose-a-day operation opening April 19 at the former Kmart on Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach that will be funded by Baxter International.
In the last two weeks, several one-day community events delivering 1,000 or more doses have been held, including at park district facilities in Vernon Hills and Mundelein, with Jewel-Osco providing the vaccine, vaccinators and oversight.
On Thursday, a state-supported site opened at 102 W. Water St. in downtown Waukegan, with appointments available through AllVax.
In related news, the fairgrounds site, which opened Jan. 18, will convert to a walk-in, walk-out operation in mid-April. Daily vaccines could increase to 2,500 or more.
"This is quick, but we can make it quicker," Pfister said.
He also reported that 25,000 public and private teachers and school staff members have been vaccinated at facilities established two months ago at Stevenson and Round Lake high schools.
Those operations are paused as of this weekend, but they could reopen if vaccines for teens are authorized, Pfister said.
Demand for vaccinations remains high in Lake County and still is limited by supply, Pfister said.
"Eligibility does not equal availability," he emphasized.