McHenry County Department of Health has first official day taking walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccine at clinics

Demand for vaccines no longer meets the number of shots available in McHenry County

With COVID-19 vaccine supply now exceeding demand, the McHenry County Department of Health had its first official day of allowing walk-ins at all its mass vaccination clinics on Tuesday.

“It definitely opens the opportunity for many groups of people to come get vaccinated,” McHenry County Department of Health spokeswoman Lindsey Salvatelli said.

Salvatelli said the department understands there are people who might have trouble scheduling vaccines into their workday.

“They’re going to try and take any opportunity that they can,” she said. “We want to make it easier for folks like that so they can come in and get that vaccination.”

The McHenry County health department has three clinics: one in McHenry, which is the only one open six days a week; one in Crystal Lake; and another in Harvard.

“The hope is that something will work for these folks who might not necessarily have the availability to be able to just go out and get it done,” Salvatelli said.

Jacquie Romano of Crystal Lake was one of the people excited to get her second dose of a two-dose vaccine Tuesday at the clinic set up at Willow Creek Community Church, 100 S. Main St.

“My worries about getting [COVID-19] are pretty much shot now,” she said. “I’m happy.”

Salvatelli said people now have more options when they go in to register for appointments, which the department said is still encouraged as walk-ins can be turned away if vaccine isn’t available.

Appointments can be made by going to the state of Illinois’s registration website at covidvaccination.dph.illinois.gov, typing in McHenry and select all events. The McHenry County health department also has a call center to take appointments.

“Now, with the walk-ins, obviously, that’s going to be easier,” Salvatelli said.

Romano said she could see her neighbor, who is 88, benefitting from the expanded availability. The neighbor initially received her first shot of the vaccine in Lake County after a relative drove her to get one, and being able to walk into Crystal Lake’s clinic will be helpful to her in obtaining the second, Romano said.

People will be able to get their second dose of vaccine at McHenry County’s clinics no matter where they went for the first one, according to the health department.

“She’s going to be very, very happy,” Romano said.

One man who walked in without an appointment to get vaccinated was done in five minutes, Salvatelli said.

This vaccine accessibility is a far cry from where it was earlier this year when the shots first started rolling out.

Frustrated McHenry County residents in January and February reported logging onto the health department and pharmacies’ websites, only to find no appointments available. Back then, not enough COVID-19 vaccine was available to support everyone offering appointments and only some populations were eligible to get it.

Now, any Illinois resident 16 and older is able to get vaccinated at the McHenry County Department of Health’s clinics.

These changes change have been a matter of efficiency, Salvatelli said, and the health department getting used to administering the vaccinations.

“It built upon itself,” Salvatelli said.

However, as eligibility for the vaccine went up, demand went down.

Over the past two weeks, the McHenry County Department of Health filled 96.2% of the appointment slots it had available the week of April 13 compared to 65.5% the week of April 27.

Romano said she noticed the clinic was much sparser Tuesday compared to when she received her first dose.

“Does that mean that everybody important got their shots the first time around? Or is everybody doing what some people do, which is, ‘I’m gonna go shopping today. I’ll see you tomorrow’?” Romano asked.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, only two people had taken advantage of the ability to walk in without an appointment at the Crystal Lake vaccine clinic. But if demand does rise, Salvatelli said, the McHenry County Department of Health will be able to handle it.

Romano doesn’t understand why someone would put off getting vaccinated now.

“Someone wants to save your life, and it’s not going to cost you anything,” she said.

Lake in the Hills resident Kerry Polasek said her vaccination experience great. She had her first shot on April 7 and received her second Tuesday.

“I did have an appointment, but I was taken care of right away,” Polasek said.

The fact that walk-ins are now being accepted is “wonderful” to Polasek.

“They don’t have to worry about making an appointment,” she said. “They can come in, they could go about their business.”

Cassie Buchman

I cover Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills for the Northwest Herald.