Special Report: COVID-19 senior vaccine distribution at frustrating standstill

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"This group has a high mortality and a high morbidity."

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The cure is here, but not enough of it.

Central Illinois health departments are racing to vaccinate against COVID-19, but as quickly as doses come in, they run out, leaving vulnerable populations like our grandparents waiting and wondering when they will be protected.

Hospitals, health departments, and now even pharmacies are poised to give the life-saving poke — the one-two punch against COVID-19. But where there is unlimited demand, there are still limited doses.

Region 2 is at a frustrating standstill as Central Illinois races to protect healthcare workers, first responders, and seniors.

Jessica McKnight, McLean County’s top health official, said the department is only getting up to 2,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each week while scrambling to vaccinate the 50,000 people first in line.

“It just makes it difficult because we do want to serve the public. We want to see our county get vaccinated, and we want to provide this service to our residents,” McKnight said.

In Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties, more than 64,000 seniors are waiting as that area gets only 3,000 — 4,000 doses per week.

“This group has a high mortality and a high morbidity,” said Peoria City/County Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson.

But they’re left in limbo as a slow distribution from the feds effectively pressed pause on the state’s fight against the virus. This is happening all in the same week when Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker put prisoners alongside grandparents in line to receive the vaccine.

So where does that leave people age 65 and older? The short answer is…there isn’t one.

Even the state’s top office said It’s impossible to predict when distribution will ramp up.

In the meantime, there is no one way to get in line for the shot. Peoria hospitals, like UnityPoint Health and OSF Healthcare, are contacting senior patients directly to schedule appointments.

In McLean County, you can schedule your own appointment online, but only for vaccine clinics. The state and some of our local counties are working to get call centers in place to simplify the process.

When they will open is another question mark. While we wait, health officials are preaching precautions.

“Those individuals that are high risk, whether it’s by age or co-morbidity, continue to take those precautions that we’ve been asking you to do since March,” Hendrickson said.

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