HOPKINS PARK — More than 600 people received a COVID-19 vaccination during a clinic Monday at Pembroke Fellowship Church.
It was the first of three sites in Kankakee County set up by the state using vaccine teams from the Illinois National Guard. Nineteen Guardsmen worked Monday’s clinic.
Two teams will work at similar events scheduled for today and Wednesday at Kankakee Community College.
Each of those days, 700 doses will be administered. Appointments for those clinics were filled shortly after being made available online the week prior to the event.
At Monday’s clinic, 658 people received a Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, Kankakee County Health Administrator John Bevis said. Because the allocation of appointments for Monday’s clinic were not filled in advance, 70 doses were made available for walk-ins, he said.
According to state officials, Pembroke was selected as a site to help increase the number of minorities receiving the vaccine.
Pastor Rodney Lake said Monday that means of transportation and misinformation about the vaccine have contributed to a lower vaccination rate among minorities.
“It’s a matter of education,” said Lake, who is also moderator for the Kankakee and Vicinity Baptist District Association. “We are getting the word out in the community to dispel the conspiracy theories. By educating we are hoping to get a greater turnout.”
Lake said the church would be more than willing to host another vaccination clinic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the more than 107 million Americans vaccinated with at least one shot as of April 4, 65 percent are white, 9.7 are Hispanic and 8.3 percent are black.
“Resources, education, community coordination help us inform,” said Theodis Pace, president of the Kankakee County branch of the NAACP. “We have to continue to get the word out. All of us together get the shot and we can get back to our lives.”
Pace estimated that 35 percent of those receiving the vaccine at Monday’s clinic were black.
Monday’s clinic was made possible in part by the work of Bevis and State Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex. They noticed the county’s vaccination numbers were starting to lag behind the state’s average vaccination percentage and reached out to state officials to bring additional state resources to Kankakee County.
The county has now fully vaccinated 12.82 percent of the population as of Monday, according to data from Illinois Department of Public Health.
Bevis says events like Monday’s clinic can push the percentage higher at a faster rate.
“As we get more vaccines like we are here today and again Tuesday and Wednesday, we are going to get more vaccines in people’s arms,” Bevis said.