Will County responds to Joliet complaints on vaccination roll-out

The Will County Health Department needs to organize the next level of COVID-19 vaccinations before it can authorize the city Joliet or other agencies to vaccinate people, a spokesman for the department said Wednesday.

Health Department spokesman Steve Brandy commented on the county plan after Joliet officials at a public meeting Tuesday voiced frustration with the vaccination plans.

“We have to keep the entire county in mind,” Brandy said. “We can’t just focus on one city and one school district.”

Teachers, senior citizens, police and other categories of workers in the private sector fall into the 1b category next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine after health care workers and nursing home residents have been vaccinated.

Vaccinations for 1b could start Monday in some counties.

Brandy said that is likely to be in smaller counties, but Will County still does not have a date for when 1b vaccinations may start.

“We’re a few weeks away from 1b,” Brandy said. “But once it hits, we want to be ready.”

Brandy said the county still is collecting surveys to prioritize who is eligible for the vaccine.

“You can’t just have walk-in clinics,” Brandy said. “People are going to be contacted when there’s something available for you, and it’s your turn.”

Among the issues to be sorted out, he noted, is which teachers get vaccinated first. Those teaching at schools with in-person learning would get the vaccine ahead of those with remote classes “for obvious reasons,” Brandy said.

Joliet Fire Chief Greg Blaskey said he’s been getting calls, primarily from senior citizens, who have been getting impatient after taking the surveys and not hearing back from the county.

“We just want to see some defined plans because I get phone calls from people who have reached out to me,” Blaskey said. “They’ve called the county and got no response.”

Blaskey was among Joliet officials who spoke Tuesday at a City Council meeting about their own concerns the Joliet Fire Department has a plan in place for providing vaccines but no idea when it will get them. Blaskey, however, acknowledged Joliet will need the county to schedule and document vaccinations.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said the city was likely to have an announcement on the matter Wednesday.

City Manager James Capparelli said Wednesday there would be no announcement.