KANKAKEE — At the Kankakee County Health Department’s first pediatric COVID-19 vaccination clinic last Saturday, 158 kids received their first dose out of 300 available slots, according to health department administrator John Bevis.
However, there was high turnout to the health department on Thursday for walk-in vaccinations, according to the department’s Facebook page.
Bevis said he is hopeful more kids will turn out to upcoming Saturday clinics.
“School is in session right now, so it’s difficult for people on a Monday through Friday to pull their kids out to come to the health department to get vaccinated if they’re 5 to 11,” Bevis said.
A little under 5 percent of the county’s 5- to 11-year-olds have gotten their first dose, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health as of Thursday, compared to 11.5 percent across the state.
Bevis said that supply for the pediatric doses is available and many pharmacies and providers now have them in stock.
“Parents who are on the fence in terms of deciding whether or not their children should be vaccinated, I just encourage them to please read the information that’s available from reputable sources,” he said.
He added that children are continuing to make up around a third of the county’s cases, though their cases are usually not as severe as adults.
“So the thing here is that we’re trying to do what’s right for everybody,” Bevis said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 data tracker reported Kankakee County’s case rate per 100,000 people to be 286.72, considered high transmission, and positivity rate to be at 5.06 percent as of Thursday. The positivity percentage has nearly doubled since Halloween, Bevis said, but rates are not as high as they were in September.
Part of the rise may be because the dropping temperatures are pushing people indoors, Bevis said. He recommended people stay home if they feel sick and continue taking precautions.
“I have a fear that people are beginning to tire of hearing that message and we’re just going back to that same old you know what, ‘It’s just my sinuses, It’s just a cold, I’m fine’ and people have COVID that don’t even know it. And they’re making their family sick.”
The hospital bed availability seven-day rolling average in Region 7, which includes Kankakee and Will counties, dropped under the threshold of 20 percent during November for the first time since January 2021. The average number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital has increased for a continuous 16 days in the region, according to IPDH.
Kankakee County has 18,960 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 281 COVID-related deaths, according to the health department as of Tuesday.
Kankakee is 44.56 percent vaccinated overall, and 8,374 people have received booster shots, according to IDPH.
The seven-day rolling average of daily vaccinations has been steadily in the 300s in November, higher than it was for most of the past four months, as boosters and Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine has become available.
“I believe that the numbers are showing that individuals who had already been vaccinated originally have been very receptive,” Bevis said regarding boosters.
As Thanksgiving week approaches, Bevis said social distancing and masking are recommended for indoor gatherings, especially around older, vulnerable people.
“Don’t let the politics and the attitudes of the vaccinations or the masks, you know, interfere with the camaraderie of getting together for the holidays, but people just need to be safe,” he said.
Many families have some people vaccinated and some unvaccinated, he added.
There also may be traveling protocols to comply with this Thanksgiving, Bevis said.
“If you’re traveling by boat or plane, you may be asked to provide proof of vaccinations, you might have to provide proof that you’ve been tested negative for COVID,” he said. “So make sure that you have all that taken care of ahead of time.”