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‘Literally no vaccine to give’: Jo Daviess County Health Department vaccine frustrations of the past month highlighted in emails

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GALENA–The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and county health departments are watching frustrations boil over as the vaccine roll out isn’t going as smoothly as anticipated.

In a  string of emails provided to The Galena Gazette by the Jo Daviess County Health Department, Heidi Clark, chief of IDPH division of infectious disease, wrote to regional health department officials, including Jo Daviess County Health Department administrator Sandra Schleicher, that IDPH was short on vaccines Feb. 12.

“We have literally no vaccine to give,” wrote Clark. “Absolutely nothing in reserve. This amount of vaccine, which I know is small is literally all we have. . .there is an almost zero percent chance we can grant ANY extra requests.”

The response was to M. Masood Athar, regional emergency response coordinator for IDPH, based in Rockford, who asked Clark about providing Pfizer vaccine for the Jo Daviess, Carroll and Whiteside County health departments.

In an earlier email on Feb. 4, Athar informed public health departments that the state had maxed out on Moderna allocations.

“Try considering taking Pfizer until the state allocations for Moderna increases,” wrote Athar. “If there is anyone with significant allocations (~500+) that wants to get more vaccine and is willing to swap all their Moderna for a tray of Pfizer, IDPH will absolutely consider those requests and try to fulfill them. Further, if health departments are sitting on far too much vaccine, IDPH will cut allocations significantly (or zero them out) next week if they aren’t moving faster.”

According to Schleicher, Jo Daviess County is requesting as much vaccine as possible. Officials requested as many as 1,275 doses during one of the weeks, but returned to requesting 200 to 400 doses due to the lack of availability.

Melaney Arnold, IDPH public information officer, said that the federal government has allocated a limited number of doses of the vaccine to the state.

“Illinois must distribute vaccines across the entire state with a careful eye toward equity,” said Arnold. “We are pleased to see an overwhelming demand for the vaccine. However, the number of doses Illinois receives is limited so the supply to meet that demand just isn’t there yet. We ask that people be patient.

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“We understand there is frustration when trying to find an open appointment, but again, there just isn’t enough vaccine at this time to get everyone all the doses they are able to administer.”

Arnold said that there are six steps for allocation distribution in the state:

1. Any doses needed to finish vaccinations in long-term care facilities.

2. Second doses that have come due.

3. State-supported mass vaccination sites.

4. Retail pharmacies (federal retail partners).

5. Mobile vaccination teams (minority health).

6. Local health departments–population based and rounded to the nearest doses in a tray. (Local health departments determine distribution to doctors, hospitals, clinics, etc., in their jurisdictions).

As the state and federal vaccine rollout continues, officials continue to preach patience.

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