Virus vaccine

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a recent vaccine clinic.

KANKAKEE — More than 1,600 first-dose appointments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are available at Illinois National Guard clinics today, Wednesday and Thursday in Kankakee.

There were 411 appointments scheduled out of 2,100 total midday Monday, according to Kankakee County Health Department Administrator John Bevis.

“It can’t be any easier than the next few days” to find an opening, Bevis said.

The clinics are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day at Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene, 1000 N. Entrance Ave., Kankakee.

Registration can be completed online at bit.ly/KankakeeMay18-20. Walk-ups are also welcome, especially on Wednesday and Thursday because fewer slots are taken.

These clinics are happening after weeks of gently rising COVID-19 cases in Kankakee County and Illinois.

“If you know anyone in your family who’s on the fence, try to convince them this is a good opportunity,” Bevis said.

Because Moderna requires two doses, people signing up must be available for both first and second dose dates, which will be May 18, 19 and 20 at the same location.

Bevis said that the two-dose requirement might be a reason why the appointments are not filling up as quickly as they did for the National Guard clinics on April 5-7 that used the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“When it was the Johnson & Johnson, people were willing to drive from far distances for one shot, but they might not be willing to drive far distances for two,” Bevis said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week while six cases of rare and severe blood clots that occurred in women after vaccination are investigated.

Most Illinois National Guard clinics previously used Johnson & Johnson because it only required making one set of appointments per community at a time. Mass vaccination clinics using Moderna this week are like experiments to see if they draw the same interest, Bevis said.

The clinics’ link was not shared statewide until Sunday night, which could also affect the amount of people signing up, Bevis said.

The county has not yet met its limit of people interested in getting vaccinated, he said.

“I still feel that there are a lot of individuals that are very interested in receiving the shot but maybe accessibility or not being able to get to the locations or needing a clinic closer to where they are could be part of this,” Bevis said.

The Kankakee County Health Department, National Guard and FEMA chose to hold the clinics in central Kankakee because the health department heard many city residents wanted to be vaccinated and it would be easy to access. When the Guardsmen ran two days of clinics at Kankakee Community College earlier this month, the time slots filled in a few hours.

The health department put out word on Facebook and its website and emailed local organizations and people on its vaccine waiting list. Bevis said he hopes the three days of vaccinations can be used by people who have waited a while for the vaccine.

“I know some of the complaints earlier were from individuals who called us up and got on the health department’s list and then they don’t get called,” he said. “But here’s an opportunity where there are plenty of appointments.”

If some of the allotted doses are not used, the county will keep them and use them at other local clinics. Bevis said that if remainder is excessive, the county will use them in replacement of next week’s normal allotment or potentially share them with other counties.

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Meredith Melland earned a BA in journalism from DePaul University, where she worked as a web developer and editor for 14 East, DePaul's online student magazine. She has interned for Chicago magazine and WGN. Her email is mmelland@daily-journal.com.