First COVID-19 vaccine

Currently, Illinois is in Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution process. Included are residents 65 and older, but also healthcare workers, residents at long-term care facilities, first responders, teachers and other frontline essential workers.

If you haven’t gotten you COVID vaccination yet, it could be a while.

That was abundantly clear when Kankakee County Health Administrator John Bevis updated the Kankakee County Board’s Executive Committee on Tuesday of where the county stands on administering the vaccines.

Right now, of those eligible to receive the vaccines in the 1A and 1B groups alone, Bevis said there’s approximately 35,000 people in Kankakee County who are eligible to receive shots and some have received those vaccinations in the past nine weeks.

“That’s where we’re at,” Bevis said. “We’re going to be vaccinating as best as we can. Just remember supplies are limited. In the last three weeks, the health department has received 300 doses last week, we’re going to get 700 doses this week and we get 800 doses next week.”

Bevis said more than 16,000 people have signed up to receive the vaccines as of Monday. So far there have been 15,155 vaccinations given, which is an average of 1,600 a week for the past nine weeks. There are 4,553 people fully vaccinated [with second doses], which is 4.1 percent of the total population of Kankakee County.

“The Illinois average is 4 percent so we’re right on line with that,” Bevis said.

County residents can continue to sign up at the health department through its website at kankakeehealth.org and Facebook page or they can call 815-802-9449.

“We’ll take down the information that is important, and then we’ll contact you again at that point when it’s your time,” Bevis said.

In addition, on Thursday, an expansion of eligibility by Gov. JB Pritzker will go into effect. At that time, eligibility will also include anyone age 16-64 who has co-morbidities: cancer, kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, heart condition, organ transplants, obesity, pregnancy, pulmonary disease and sickle cell disease.

“So people who are on that list, if you just signed up today for example, and you’re 16,001, you’re at the bottom of the list,” Bevis said. “I’m sorry, because there’s people ahead of you that we’re trying to get to who feel that their shots are just as important as your shot is.

“It’s a daunting task to try to vaccinate all these people. But [among] the health department, the hospitals and the pharmacies, we’re going to do the best we can to do that.”

County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said he’s taken questions from the business community about when it might receive vaccinations.

“Through no fault of [the health department] because it’s a dose situation, it’s not a capacity situation to be able to hand them out,” he said. “We’re not getting enough to get to everybody.”

Bevis said he’s aware there’s a frustration level for people waiting on the list to get vaccinated.

“Realize if you got on list six weeks ago and you’re still at 10,000 and we’re only getting 500 doses a week to be able to do those shots, the math is not good,” he said. “We estimate at 500 doses a week, we’ll have everyone’s first shot done in three and half years.

“We expect to get more than that soon,” he said. “However at the current pace, that’s what we’re looking at. I understand the frustrations of individuals, ‘Why haven’t you called me?’”

SECOND DOSE

Bevis said the second doses are guaranteed and are already in place.

“Anyone who got their first shot already will get their second dose,” he said. “There’s no shortage on that. There’s a shortage on the vaccines coming into our county and statewide in regards to first doses. [Pritzker] promised that come March that’s supposed to improve, slowly and surely so that hopefully, by mid-summer is the best answer I can give at this point until I know for sure. It’s going to take that while.”

Bevis said it’s been a heroic effort for what’s been done locally, and the medical community just needs more vaccines.

“The governor indicated [Monday] that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is beginning to go through its final stages for approval, so maybe by the first of March we might have three vaccines out there and available,” he said. “… We could anticipate that we could easily do 4,000 [vaccinations] a week, and we can do some serious damage with 4,000 [doses] a week but not 500.”

Associate Editor

Chris Breach is the Associate Editor of The Daily Journal and the editor of the business section. A graduate of Indiana University, Breach has more than 25 years experience in newspapers. He can be reached at cbreach@daily-journal.com.