Frustration, relief and hope amid a slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout for second wave
As the slow drip of COVID-19 vaccines continued Tuesday in Illinois, reactions from the latest group eligible for shots ranged from relief at appointments -- even if weeks away -- to fear and frustration over an information void.
"I get up in the middle of the night to see if there's any appointments," said Linda Trilling of Buffalo Grove, whose husband, Steve, 68, had a kidney transplant in October. "I fought hard for him to get to this point, I just want to see him healthy and COVID-free."
Meanwhile, bus driver Keith Hill is on a waiting list to make a vaccine appointment. Getting inoculated would be "the light at the end of the tunnel" amid a deadly pandemic. "Due to the job we do, it's always a constant worry," said Hill, president of Local 241 Amalgamated Transit Union representing local Pace and Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers.
Elsewhere, the majority of teachers in Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 should get vaccinated in about two weeks at a mass event, said Michael Williamson, teachers union president.
"This is huge," Williamson said, noting that schools can be "petri dishes" for infections. "It will make us feel safer and makes our students safer and let us be better connected with our students.
"It feels like you can take a breath -- and still be careful -- but you don't have to freak out because a kid slipped and you helped that kid up. You don't have to feel bad about leaning over and showing someone where the lowest common denominator is."
Health care workers and long-term care facility residents (Phase 1A) were first to be inoculated.
On Monday, Illinois officially opened up COVID-19 vaccinations to Phase 1B -- people age 65 and older and essential workers, individuals whose jobs won't allow them to work remotely including police, day care workers, teachers, firefighters, transit workers and others.
However, an unreliable vaccine supply from the federal government, delays ramping up shots, and conflicting information from state and local sources have confused many.
On Monday, 27,232 people were inoculated compared to the seven-day average of 30,180, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
So far, Illinois has received 1,764,675 vaccine doses and administered 719,995 shots, officials reported Tuesday. Of those, 537,050 doses are streamed into a federal program to vaccinate long-term care residents, which has netted 110,403 shots in arms.
Both Pfizer Inc.'s and Moderna Inc.'s vaccines require two separate doses, several weeks apart. The number of fully vaccinated Illinoisans is 145,772, or 1.14% of the state's 12.7 million population.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced the government would boost vaccine deliveries to states from 8.6 million doses to 10 million doses weekly.
In Naperville Unit District 203, teachers don't have a date yet for vaccines but the union and district are coordinating a plan, said Dan Iverson, president of the Naperville Unit Education Association.
"Details are still being worked out regarding exactly who will go first, how we will assign slots and where the shots will be administered, but all of those discussions are being held actively so that, when enough doses become available, we will be ready to get all those who wish it a shot -- absolutely as soon as possible," Iverson said.
"This is a very high priority for us, especially as we are returning to in-person learning this week."
In Lake County, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire and Round Lake High School will become vaccination sites for about 20,000 educators, officials announced Tuesday.
Doors should open in early February and Stevenson High School is expected to handle about 2,000 teachers a day at the Sports Center, seven days a week. "Our top priority is to stand up our site as soon as possible," Superintendent Eric Twadell said. Teachers can register at the Lake County Health Department.
The vaccines will make a world of difference for teachers, Williamson said.
In Buffalo Grove, Trilling said she's signed up at numerous vaccination websites including Cook County and pharmacies with no luck getting an appointment for her husband. Staff at Loyola University Medical Center, where he received his transplant, have told her they'll have to wait to be contacted.
"I have no idea when that is going to be," she said. "It could be months."
Loyola officials said the hospital has "just begun vaccination of Phase 1B individuals, but still have large numbers of Phase 1A individuals still needing vaccination. Because vaccine supply is limited, however, it will take time to vaccinate everyone who is eligible."
Here's the latest on where to find Phase 1B vaccination information:
• The state of Illinois at coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/vaccination-location.
• Cook County at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.
• DuPage County at dupagehealth.org/590/Coronavirus-Disease-2019-COVID-19-Inform.
• Lake County at allvax.lakecohealth.org.
• Kane County at kanehealth.com/Pages/COVID-Vaccine.
• McHenry County at mchenrycountyil.gov/county-government.
• Will County at willcountyhealth.org.