Advocates needed: Making the case for more COVID-19 vaccine in Jo Daviess County

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There were some mighty disappointed healthcare officials in Jo Daviess County last week. We all should be disappointed.
Sandra Schleicher, Jo Daviess County Health Department Administrator, at the behest of her board, increased her organization’s request for COVID-19 vaccine from 300 to 500 doses. Tracy Bauer, Midwest Medical Center CEO, requested 1,000 doses.
The word coming back from the Illinois Department of Public Health wasn’t good for residents of this part of the world. Midwest Medical Center would receive zero doses and the health department’s request would be cut to 200 doses.
With Illinois receiving just 280,000 or so doses of vaccine a week, it’s easy to see why the vaccine is such a scarce commodity.
This past Sunday, I sent this letter to Rep. Cheri Bustos:
Dear Rep. Bustos: I have a unique vantage point observing the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination here in Jo Daviess County. As publisher of The Galena Gazette, I am part reporter, prodder and advocate. I am also president of the Community Development Fund of Galena, a local economic and community development group as well as vice-chair of the Midwest Medical Center board of directors, so I see this rollout from a variety of perspectives. I am writing to you today to share some of my observations, as well as share the great need for the federal government to step up shipment of COVID-19 vaccine to the respective states, especially to Illinois.
The demand for COVID vaccination here outstrips supply by many fold and I fear that people are becoming frustrated. Initially, our local health department received approximately 100 vaccine doses weekly, which then increased to 200 and then 300. This past week the Jo Daviess County Health Department requested 500 doses and Midwest Medical Center requested 1,000 doses from the Illinois Department of Public Health, only to learn that the local health department will receive just 200 doses for the next few weeks and the hospital, none. At this rate, it will take three-plus years to vaccinate 80 percent of our population, 21,500.
It is estimated that 8,000 of Jo Daviess County’s residents fit within Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan. On Feb. 25 the number of eligible people who fit within the plan is increasing to include those with certain medical issues such as cancer, diabetes, kidney issues, etc. I understand and agree with the purpose of doing this but this decision will render an already scarce vaccine scarcer and make obtaining a vaccine appointment even more competitive and hard to get in the short term.
People here are desperate for the vaccine. I have heard stories of people from these parts driving to the Quad Cities and even Galesburg to get their vaccination. Others are traveling to Monroe, Wis., for theirs.
According to a report from Capitol News Illinois (https://bit.ly/37gWryW), the Illinois Department of Public Health receives just 280,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine weekly. Given that, I can understand why Jo Daviess County receives such a paltry number of doses. It underscores the importance of the federal government finding ways to augment the shipment of vaccine to the states.
I also want to assure you that we have the resources here to put shots in arms when vaccine shipments increase. Local pharmacies are eager to help and have started waiting lists and Midwest Medical Center believes it can vaccinate up to 5,000 people weekly. That’s the good news: We’re ready to roll up our shirtsleeves and get to work.
This is the core issue. Over the past few months expectations have risen in anticipation of the vaccination rollout. Vaccine supplies haven’t risen to meet anticipation levels, which is a discouraging thing.
The word “patience” is a much-used word these days by health department officials, local and state. Exhortations of “patience” after awhile begin to ring hollow as citizens filled with anticipation become frustrated. I don’t want to diminish the importance of the hard work, initiative and capital that have gone into the creation of these vaccines and their rollout, but I do want to impress upon you the importance of vaccine supply. I am hopeful that additional vaccines in the marketplace will help increase supply. Vaccine needs to get into the arms of people as quickly as possible.
Having received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine two weeks ago, I can share with you how liberating it is to receive that first shot and the great anticipation that comes with it for the second shot. I want an increasing number of area residents to experience this feeling of liberation and quickly. It’s how we can open up our lives here and our economy.
I share this to tune you in on the vaccination rollout here. Although I am heartened that so many are eager for the vaccine, I share a sense of frustration that so many have not. I am not sure how you can help in this matter, but I do hope that you are an advocate, a loud one at that, for increasing vaccine supplies. I know that there is a lot of competition out there which makes the need for advocates all the more important.

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Wishing you the very best….
And that’s the letter.
The situation of scarce vaccine that we are facing in Jo Daviess County is taking place all over this country. Supply is well short of demand.
President Joe Biden has set a goal of inoculating 100 million people within the first 100 days of his administration. I think it’s a goal that most of us want to see come true.
But I wonder if it can happen without finding ways to increase the number of doses distributed to the states?
It seems to me that this is the time to advocate for Jo Daviess County with elected and non-elected officials at the state and national level. We need to be that loud gong and clashing cymbal.
We need to let decision makers know that we are here, that their decisions regarding Jo Daviess County matter to us and that we have proven and are ready to put shots in arms, literally and figuratively, even up to 5,000 per week.

Honoring Steve Allendorf
The news of Steve Allendorf’s death came as a shock to all of us at The Galena Gazette.
I knew Steve during my entire 41-plus-year career here.
Next week’s Gazette will include content honoring and remembering Steve.
To Steve I would say: Job well done thy faithful servant.
P. Carter Newton,
publisher,
cnewton@galgazette.com

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