National Guard could help vaccine effort in Will County, officials say

Will County Executive said officials are evaluating two locations in Romeoville for hosting mass vaccinations sites

Will County officials said they are hoping for state and federal assistance, including from the Illinois National Guard, to help with the local COVID-19 vaccination effort in the coming weeks.

Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, told The Herald-News on Wednesday that her office and the Will County Emergency Management Agency have been working to identify possible locations for mass vaccination sites.

She said the state identified Will County as an area where the National Guard could assist in vaccinating the public based on the county’s population density. Harold Damron, the director of the Will County EMA, said the county has also been speaking with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bertino-Tarrant added such a vaccination site would be a collaborative effort between the county and state. Vaccine supply would have to come from both the local health department’s stockpile and additional doses the state has for such sites. The Will County Health Department would run the site with help from the National Guard.

“They’re partners with us on this,” said Allison Anderson, deputy director of the Will County EMA. “We have our skin in the game. They have skin in the game.”

Local officials said they have been considering locations in the northern part of the county as possible sites, including two in Romeoville: the Joliet Junior College north campus on 135th Street and a former Target building on Weber Road which houses Senior Services of Will County.

Bertino-Tarrant said she hopes a mass vaccination site could be ready to administer shots later this month, though she added that would depend on the vaccine supply ramping up. Damron added that more details will likely be confirmed in the next week or so.

“I think some of these things will get firmed up and then it’s just a matter of turning on these locations as more vaccine becomes available,” he said.

Damron also said the health department and EMA have been working to secure locations to host vaccinations in the eastern and southern part of the county. Still, officials have said, vaccine supply continues to be the main hindrance to wider access around the county.

Steve Brandy, a county health department spokesman, said much of the vaccines delivered to Will County this week were needed for residents’ second dose, so not many people were able to get their first dose.

Local officials are still waiting on word of when Will County will receive a shipment of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.