Local health officials say vaccine could be coming to the area soon, gives update on hospital resources at press conference

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Local health officials said they’re monitoring hospital resources as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the tri-county area.

At Thursday’s health department press conference, Public Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson said the area’s seen an increase of 2,294 cases in the past week. She said these numbers are still a concern for hospitals.

“Where we have seen the hospitals is continued ICU usage increases,” Hendrickson said. “From last week, we are now at 54, while previously, we were at 44.”

Dr. Samer Sader, UnityPoint Health’s Chief Medical Officer, said hospitalizations due to the virus have been fluctuating.

“This has been going on for the last few weeks,” Sader said. “Every few days we seem to get a little bit better and then we immediately have a little bit of a spike again.”

Sader said there’s currently no shortage of ventilators or physical beds in the hospital. He said the hospital’s been monitoring its resources daily which helps preserve them.

Hendrickson said with COVID-19 cases expected to increase in the coming weeks from holiday travel and get-togethers, she’s looking on the bright side as Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines could soon become within reach.

“We are very excited that, we hope, by the end of this week the FDA will have given the emergency authorization for two vaccines, and from mid-December to the end of December we will start seeing the first shipments arrive here locally,” Hendrickson said.

She said vaccine distribution is still a work in progress but they will follow the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, ACIP, guidelines for prioritizing them. The Center for Disease Control recently recommended residents of long-term care facilities and health care workers get vaccinated first.

Hendrickson said the goal is to get 80% of the population vaccinated which will help build a level of immunity to where mitigations can start being loosened. However, she said getting vaccinated will be a process.

“The way vaccines work in general is that, once you get vaccinated, it does take time for your body to create those memory cells on how to fight the virus,” Hendrickson said.

She also said those who are concerned about getting vaccinated due to how quickly the vaccines were created shouldn’t worry about that.

“Never in our history have we seen the entire scientific community decide to focus on one problem, and that’s building a vaccine,” Hendrickson said. “So speed isn’t necessarily an issue when you realize that collaborative or that crowdsource approach to finding a solution is going to make things speed up. What is important is looking at the data, and that’s what the FDA is doing right now.”

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