Will County health officials aim to continue outreach as COVID-19 vaccinations slow

The health department is taking its vaccine efforts on the road around the county as its larger vaccination clinics shut down this week

Will County health officials are ramping up their efforts to reach unvaccinated populations as daily vaccinations have slowed and larger clinics shut down last week.

Sue Olenek, the executive director of the Will County Health Department, detailed her agency’s plans July 7 to the county’s Public Health and Safety Committee. She said the department has been operating pop-up vaccine clinics all over the county and has been working with local schools to get eligible students vaccinated ahead of the new school year.

“We are making every effort to get out into every single community in Will County,” Olenek said. “Every township, every town, every city, we’ve reached out to all of them wanting to make appointments to talk with their individuals to see what would be the best thing for us to do in terms of reaching the most people in those areas.”

The efforts come as vaccinations have slowed significantly over the past several weeks.

As of Friday, 48% of the county’s 690,000 residents are fully vaccinated. About 1,200 vaccinations are being administered daily in the county, but just a month ago, the daily doses administered was nearly twice that.

The health department already has held pop-up clinics at local churches and events such as farmers markets and community festivals.

The department also has been vaccinating homebound patients in their homes, with about 175 fully vaccinated so far.

The mass vaccination sites in Wilmington, Monee and the former Toys R Us building in Joliet all are shutting down. Olenek said the operations were quite successful.

As of the middle of last week, the Joliet clinic had administered more than 67,000 vaccines. The Wilmington clinic had administered more than 10,000 and the Monee clinic delivered more than 9,300.

The clinic the health department has been running in its own office in Joliet will continue to operate, Olenek said, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Olenek said her department is still trying to find ways to reach out to communities of color who are underrepresented among those getting vaccinated in the county. The department’s held listening sessions geared toward Black and Latino residents to gauge their specific concerns or questions about the vaccines.

“We still need to increase the vaccination rates for our Black and brown communities,” she said.

The department recently announced that it’s accepting applications for grants to give to local community-based organizations to partner with on reaching out to those unvaccinated populations.

For information, including on vaccines, go to willcountyhealth.org.

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.