Peoria County leading Illinois in vaccinating 65 and older population

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Peoria County is leading the state in getting the COVID-19 vaccine to the most vulnerable populations.

As COVID-19 vaccines were prepped for distribution, Peoria County hospitals and medical leaders partnered to determine how to best serve the community.

“It was the leadership by that coalition that came together to say who is best positioned to get the vaccine into the public’s arms,” said Sarah Overton, Chief Nursing Officer at OSF Multi-Specialty Services.

Overton says the answer to that question turned out to be the healthcare system.

“We’re usually averaging anywhere from 500 to 700 patients coming through… each day for either a first or a second dose vaccine,” she said.

As of Monday, Peoria County led Illinois in vaccinating individuals 65 and older, with 85 percent of this population receiving at least one dose. The statewide average sits just above 50 percent.

Local professionals say outreach to these communities was critical for success.

“We utilized a call center that was staffed by 10 to 12 individuals, but we also reached out to our clinics to have them call their own patients,” said John Miller, VP of Medical Affairs at UnityPoint Health.

UnityPoint and OSF HealthCare also teamed up to make sure individuals outside their network did not fall through the cracks.

“We got together with OSF and just split those independent practices in half,” Miller said.

Advanced Medical Transport is also contributing to vaccination efforts, AMT is using a strike team to vaccinate people that have issues traveling. By the end of March, AMT expects to have upwards of 1,400 individuals vaccinated.

“Folks at the homeless shelter, people in congregate living facilities, people who are incarcerated,” said Josh Bradshaw, Community Resource Manager for Advanced Medical Transport.

As more groups become eligible for the vaccine, leaders say education will play a major role, especially for younger individuals.

“We’re never going to obtain herd immunity, which is that population immunity for 70 to 80 percent of our entire population getting a vaccine, without them. So we need them, we need them to educate themselves, we need them to respond when we will tell them it’s time,” Overton said.

Overton says she also encourages individuals to electronically connect with their health care providers. She says that makes scheduling vaccinations more efficient.

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