DeKalb County residents and businesses can now sign up online to indicate their interest to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, a new platform launched by the DeKalb County Health Department (DCHD) to help organize mass vaccine distribution.
On the health department’s website, members of the public, or businesses and agencies can fill out a form to be added to a distribution list. People on the list will be notified when they are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The form is not a waitlist for the general public to receive the vaccine, since vaccine supply is still limited and will be prioritized to higher-risk groups according to the federal government.
“This will help us determine which phase of the vaccination plan your business/organization/agency would fall in and when your staff may be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” states the department’s website. “We will notify your main contact when it is time to register to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) oversees prioritization of the vaccine, which will be a phased approach, prioritizing healthcare workers, adults living in long-term care facilities, essential workers and first responders and the elderly, among others.
Vaccine distribution in DeKalb County is still in its first phase, 1A. DeKalb County received its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, Dec. 29. The initial shipment of 800 doses was used to provide vaccines to local hospital healthcare personnel, including Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb and Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital in Sandwich.
COVID-19 Vaccine Phase 1A includes healthcare personnel and critical populations, including hospital and long-term care facility staff, health department staff, emergency medical services, home-health personnel, pharmacy staff and other medical and health care workers.
According to the DCHD, vaccinating at long-term care facilities may begin as early as this week. Additional vaccine shipments are expected to arrive on a weekly basis. It is anticipated that it will take a few months to complete vaccination efforts in Phase 1A.
The next phase, COVID-19 Vaccine Phase 1B, allows vaccinations to be received by a myriad of trades and workers, including: first responders, daycare workers, corrections officers, food and agriculture workers, postal service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, educators, including teachers and support staff and people age 65 and older.
The IDPH also warns Illinoisans about COVID-19 vaccine scams.
Signs of potential scams include being asked to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine and being asked to pay to put your name on a vaccine waiting list or to get early access.
The IDPH also warns about advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online or from unsolicited/unknown sources and marketers offering to sell or ship doses of the vaccine for payment.
Local organizations prepare
One organization directly impacted by Phase 1B’s vaccination distribution is Voluntary Action Center (VAC) in Sycamore, which provides transportation and nutrition needs to members of DeKalb, Bureau, LaSalle, Kendall and Putnam counties.
VAC’s Meals on Wheels program provides hot nutritious meals to seniors, individuals with disabilities, the home-bound and their spouses.
Mike Neuenkirchen, VAC’s vice president of operations, described life since March, when the pandemic began, as “nothing but one challenge after another.”
“Face masks and gloves were unavailable for the first couple of months,” he said. “The vaccine is a crucial, critical tool for our staff and the people that we serve.”
Neuenkirchen said that although he looks forward to the availability of the vaccine, he describes it as a “one more tool to aid in the fight against COVID,” referring to the vaccines’ less than 100% efficacy.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine showed efficacy of 95% at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection, measured starting from seven days after the second dose was administered. The Moderna vaccine, which is what is being distributed in DeKalb County, was 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, measured starting from 14 days after the second dose.
“I think the fight against COVID is a three-legged stool: the vaccine, [personal protective equipment] and social distancing,” Neuenkirchen said. “None of the three are 100%, but all three help. This past year has been an uphill battle, and it’d be wonderful if 2021 looked a little more like a normal year. However, even with a vaccine, we can’t let our guard down.”
Tara Russo, executive director of Elder Care Services of DeKalb County, said that she is “hopeful and anxious” to get the vaccine to local senior citizens and staff. Elder Care Services provides education, support, resources and hands-on involvement to the older adult or those who care for them.
Russo said that she is concerned in the drop of Adult Protective Services intakes because abuse is being under reported.
“Right now, we are only able to see seniors who are at imminent risk, when really there are many more seniors out there potentially going without needed help or services,” Russo said. “So, [the vaccine] is a light of hope for us as an agency to get out there and safely provide the services our seniors need in our community.”
For up-to-date about the COVID-19 vaccine in DeKalb County, visit the DeKalb County Health Department’s website, www.health.dekalbcounty.org/about/coronavirus.