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Illinois

Limited Vaccine Supply Holding Back Pace of Peoria County's COVID Immunizations

Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson, left, and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, held a press conference at the former Heddington Oaks nursing home in West Peoria, Feb. 10, 2021.
Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson, left, and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, held a press conference at the former Heddington Oaks nursing home in West Peoria, Feb. 10, 2021.

Peoria County is currently administering around 8,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses a month. But all the pieces are in place to drastically upscale that operation--if only more supply was available.

"If we got anywhere between 10 to 15,000 doses a week, between our health department, the two hospital systems, and our federally-qualified health center, we would be able to support that," said Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson. "That just shows you that we're prepared and have logisitics in place to do a large-scale operation."

The problem remains vaccine supply.

Currently, the county is administering around 2,000 doses a week. As of Wednesday, just more than 3% of Peoria County's population was fully immunized against the coronavirus.

At the current pace, Hendrickson estimated it will take another two months to get through the 1B vaccination wave. And that estimate came before Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday that he's expanding 1B eligibility to include more people with underlying conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart problems, or COPD.

"That's why that allocation is really important for us, so we can do it quicker," said Hendrickson. "With this whole idea of variants coming in, you want people to get vaccinated faster, too. To decrease the chance of mutations, as well."

Of the 14 counties in her district, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, said Peoria County is moving the fastest, by far, on COVID-19 vaccinations. But she agreed the country needs to move more quickly.

"It's not a matter of buying it. We have ordered hundreds of millions of doses now. We will have enough doses paid for to vaccinate every American who wants to be vaccinated," Bustos said. "It can't be produced fast enough."

On Wednesday, Bustos toured Peoria County's "closed pod" COVID-19 vaccination site at the former Heddington Oaks nursing home. She praised President Joe Biden for his plan to invoke the Defense Production Act to rapidly amp up COVID-19 vaccine production.

"This is the way that we get to the product faster. It's how we get more of the doses. It's how we get more of the syringes, get more of the vials," she said. "So this has to be a whole of government and the private sector combined, in order to tackle one of the greatest public health challenges in the past hundred years."

Bustos also floated the possibility of allowing other pharmaceutical companies to manufacture the existing vaccines on the market as an option to scale up production, though that may present legal hurdles.

She thinks Biden's administration will hit its goal of 100 million vaccinations within his first 100 days in office, and expects the $1.9 trillon COVID relief package to pass next month, before current benefits expire.

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