EFFINGHAM — Local health officials are optimistic they will get through their current waiting list for COVID-19 vaccine doses soon if enough vaccine is available.
“If we get all of the vaccine we anticipate, we should really whittle down that waiting list quickly,” said Effingham County Health Department Administrator Jeff Workman during a Effingham County Health Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Karen Feldkamp said the health department doesn’t know exactly when it will receive the next shipment of vaccine, making it “a little difficult to plan ahead and make appointments for people.”
Feldkamp said the department put in a request for vaccination doses and has a general idea when they are due to arrive, however, some shipments don’t show up on the day they are promised. Therefore, the appointments aren’t being scheduled until they have the vaccines in hand, she said.
“I know that is a little bit of a challenge and frustrating for the public,” Feldkamp said. “It is actually better for us to wait until we get vaccine in the building before we schedule appointments rather than calling 500 people back to cancel their appointments.”
Feldkamp said currently the average wait time for a person to get vaccinated is 20 to 25 minutes, which includes the 15-minute wait period after someone is given the shot in case there is a reaction.
She said the department is planning to transition to a State of Illinois data-entry system called EMTrack, which may slow things down a little due to extra data entry.
“The health department is getting a mass vaccination grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health and encouraging all health departments to use EMTrack to help track immunizations,” Workman said.
He said EMTrack would give the state a faster record of those receiving vaccinations locally. He said IDPH created a deadline and gave ECHD an incentive to start using EMTrack.
“The state is pushing us to use EMTrack and it makes sense in a lot of ways to use EMTrack,” Workman said.
Feldkamp said when the system is ready, the health department will take online appointments, but added they will also accommodate those who do not have access to the internet.
Feldkamp said currently there are 260 in either quarantine or isolation in Effingham County. She said ECHD has given nearly 7,000 Moderna vaccination doses. Out of that number, 2,247 have received their second dose.
Workman said when someone is getting a two-shot vaccination, they are given a date on a card.
“Some people think the date means they have an automatic appointment to get a second shot on that day when they actually don’t,” Workman said. “What that date means is when they are first eligible for a second shot.”
Workman said people should be getting notified about their second vaccination dose appointment when it gets close to or after the date on their cards.
Committee Chairman Doug McCain asked Workman if Effingham County would be getting any doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“I’ve heard of some arriving in Chicago, but I haven’t heard of any local health departments receiving any of those yet,” Workman said.
Workman said he knows there are people going to regional vaccination sites in Carbondale, Springfield and other cities in the state, but noted there are pros and cons for getting vaccinated at a regional site.
“If someone has a reaction, they may be on the interstate for two hours before getting back,” Workman said.
Feldkamp cautioned that COVID is not completely gone and the county still gets cases almost every day.
“Numbers right now are better than they were. However, we are cautiously optimistic.” she said.
Health Committee Member Elizabeth Huston commended the ECHD.
“I would just like to commend the health department for your hard work. I know from the Altamont community approximately 40 people I’ve spoken to had a good, quick drive-in experience. So they have been very pleased.”