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National Guard Helps ISU Run Vaccination Clinic

Illinois State University is getting help from the National Guard to vaccinate eligible campus community members.

The McLean County Mobile Military Vaccination Team helping run ISU’s clinic consists of 36 soldiers. More are working on a fixed team at the Grossinger Motors Arena mass vaccination site in downtown Bloomington.

Major General Rich Neely, commander of the Illinois National Guard and an ISU graduate, said no one in the service expected to be thrust into the center of a global pandemic. But he said the work is rewarding.

Credit Dana Vollmer / WGLT
Major General Rich Neely, commander of the Illinois National Guard, was joined by state Rep. Dan Brady and Illinois State University President Larry Dietz in welcoming the McLean County Mobile Military Vaccination Team to ISU's Bone Student Center.

"This is one of those missions where the National Guard is very excited to be part of the response because they actually see the change coming, they get to meet the public,” Neely said.

ISU provided up to 300 shots Thursday. More clinics  are scheduled for April 1, 8 and 15.

The Illinois National Guard has about 60 total service members supporting COVID-19 vaccination efforts in McLean County. Neely said they should be able to boost vaccine doses administered in the county by about 1,000 per day—assuming the doses are available. McLean County is currently behind the state average for vaccination progress.

Neely said he’s not yet sure where the mobile team will go next. That’s up to the Illinois Department of Public Health that works with local health departments to determine the areas of greatest need.

“The great thing about these mobile teams is we've been able to move them out to some rural areas, and some areas where maybe the elderly are not able to get into a mass (vaccination) center or something like that, or maybe a long-term health care center that may have some challenges with transporting patients,” he said.

Almost 1.9 million Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated—about 15% of the population. Neely said the Illinois National Guard has administered more than 500,000 of those doses.

Higher education faculty and staff became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on Monday. Those in Phase 1A, 1B and 1B+, which covers people with certain health conditions, have been eligible for weeks.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.
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