First COVID-19 vaccine

Emily Meyer, director of pharmacy for Riverside Healthcare, prepares some of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Kankakee County on Dec. 16 at Riverside Medical Center.

Kankakee County teachers and school staff are set to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations today, and the process is set to continue for all local schools over the next two weeks.

Kankakee County Health Department administrator John Bevis said the department is currently scheduling closed PODs (points of dispensing) for vaccinating school employees.

The department’s goal is to provide first doses of the vaccine for all schools and school districts within the county by the first week of February, he said.

If all goes as planned, first doses for school employees will be done through Feb. 3. Second doses would then have to be scheduled for four weeks later.

At this time, the Moderna vaccine, which requires two shots given four weeks apart, is being provided.

Teachers and school staff are included in Phase 1B of vaccine distribution alongside other non-health care essential workers, residents 65 and older, and inmates.

The entire state will move into Phase 1B of vaccine distribution starting Jan. 25, but counties that have substantially completed the first phase are starting ahead of that date.

“Kankakee is one of those counties that is able to begin a little bit earlier because of where we were with the 1A,” Bevis said. “We pretty much got that done. In order to keep moving along, we’ve been given permission from the state to begin to do the 1Bs.”

About 200 vaccines are set to be administered today at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School. Another school district is scheduled for Friday and three others are scheduled for next week.

Several local districts including BBCHS have indicated they will not mandate employees get vaccinated but would offer the option.

Closed PODs (points of dispensing) will be set up for employees of the particular district or school only, except in instances where smaller districts are pairing up with larger ones to offer the vaccine together.

For example, roughly 35 St. George Elementary School employees are expected to join the nearly 100 employees that said they wanted the vaccine in Bradley Elementary School District 61 later this month, Bradley Superintendent Scott Goselin said.

‘A DAUNTING TASK’

Bevis estimates the county will remain in Phase 1B for a couple of months.

Hopefully, things might start to move along faster once pharmacies in the area able to get state approval to start giving the vaccine, he said.

This would be helpful for the health department because of the large number of people included in 1B, he said.

“That will allow us to accommodate the essential workers such as the schools, the police, factories, store workers, places like that, while then the 65-and-up [population] is getting addressed through some pharmacies,” he said. “That way, everybody is being accommodated one way or another.”

Right now, county health departments are still in charge of ordering and supplying vaccines, but eventually, providers will be able to do this themselves, like with flu shots, he said.

Bevis said ensuring all residents of Kankakee County that want the vaccine get their two doses remains “a daunting task,” and he continues to urge patience from the public.

He also asks residents to take the department’s survey located on its website and Facebook page; they will be contacted from there as to when and where they can get the vaccine.

“Those who want to get the shot will get them; we just don’t know what part of the line you are going to be in,” Bevis said. “You might be up front. You might be in the middle, and unfortunately, if you got to the party late, you might be last. But you will get your shot.”

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.