In February the COVID-19 vaccine was scarce in Kankakee County. Those who wanted to receive the shot as soon as possible didn’t readily have access to a dose.
That’s not the case in May. All three brands of the vaccine — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are abundant and waiting to be administered in available arms.
“Now we have it, and we can’t give it away. And it’s free,” said John Bevis, Kankakee County Health Department administrator at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting for the Kankakee County Board at the administration building. “We’re ordering less now because we have to be cognizant of the expiration date on these.”
As of Monday, the county has given 65,274 doses of the coronavirus vaccine with 31,948 totally vaccinated, which is 29.04 percent of the county population. Herd immunity is reached at 70 percent.
Board member John Fetherling asked Bevis what the goal is and can the county get to 40 percent or higher on vaccinations.
“What’s the best way to do this to get up to around 40?” Fetherling said.
“Even the most populous counties right now that have had the best success rates of getting people vaccinated, I don’t think have hit 40 [percent] yet,” Bevis said. “So once we hit 30, now at least, I’m going to be comfortable that we’re in the talking distance because just a couple of months ago, we were one of the last ones from the bottom of the state, and a number of counties hit 30, 35, just right off the bat.
“And they’ve plateaued. They’re saturated, as I said that’s just now going to be this education. And it’s going to be something where again, realize that this vaccine is on emergency authorization use.”
Bevis said some people might be waiting until the vaccine gets official approval from the Food and Drug Administration, or for other reasons.
“Or they’ll wait until it impacts their family, there’s just a number of reasons why they’re waiting, or they’re just not going to do it at all,” he said. “So you’re gonna have probably a third to 40, 50 percent? I don’t know if we’ll get to 50 percent, maybe eventually.
“But that could be a year and a half at this point because look how fast we got here. But if it takes another month to get another 1 or 2 percent, that’s just trying to educate the people. Now, do we continue to try to go out and make people get something they may or may not want?”
The Pfizer vaccine is now OK’d for those 12 years old and above, so that could increase the numbers going forward. The availability of the vaccine might also increase the percentage of people vaccinated in the county.
“When you go grocery shopping, you can walk into your pharmacy and get it, if that’s the one you want,” Bevis said. “You can schedule it almost with your doctor. By the end of the summer, hopefully, there’ll be more of that. They’re the ones that know your health history more than even we do. Or you can get it at the health department just when you come in for other services. So there’s going to be plenty of opportunity.”
Bevis is also urging sports travel teams to get vaccinated, and the health department wants to cater to college students who may be required to have vaccinations prior to the fall semester.
“This is an opportunity,” he said.
Bevis also said that before the vaccine became available, a survey revealed that 50 percent of the respondents said they weren’t going to get vaccinated. Also, the vaccine isn’t required.
“I think more people as they see that many people have gotten vaccinated and nothing’s happening, will then change their mind,” he said.