Chestnut Health Tests COVID-19 Vaccine Readiness | WGLT

Chestnut Health Tests COVID-19 Vaccine Readiness

Oct 14, 2020

Chestnut Health Systems of Bloomington conducted an exercise Wednesday to test its preparedness to administer a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) has designated the behavioral health non-profit as a closed point of dispensing, meaning it could be called upon to dispense vaccines to Chestnut staff, their families, patients and clients during a pandemic or other health emergency.

A Chestnut Health Systems employee directs coworkers to a flu vaccination clinic.
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT

Chestnut hosted a flu shot clinic for staff at its Bloomington offices for one hour on Wednesday afternoon.

Lori Laughlin, Chestnut's director of marketing and communications, said evaluators are looking to see how well the system would work to dispense a COVID vaccine to a larger group of people.

“Follow-up questions to ask from their perspective (would be) did the process run smoothly, how was the communication, did you have enough advance communication, what could we do to improve the process or experience?” Laughlin said. “We can make improvements based on what our evaluators see today and, based on employee feedback, make any improvements. The ideal situation is this is practice for the actual event.”

Lines generally consisting of several Chestnut employees stood outside on a warm fall afternoon, waiting  their turn to get the vaccine. Laughlin said 42 employees got a flu shot, while several others did a walk-through to help with the exercise. 

Diane McCray, a finance assistant at Chestnut, said the process was quick and easy, but she hopes people get over any hesitation they may have about getting a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

“I’m a little concerned, but I think that once they get the vaccine and it’s approved by everybody, I would be very comfortable getting it,” McCray said.

When a COVID vaccine becomes available, Chestnut would offer it to the 300 employees in its central Illinois region, including offices in Bloomington, Peoria and Joliet, and several hundred clients and patients.

Laughlin said Chestnut would request 4,000 COVID vaccines for employees, their families and their patients if the MCHD calls on Chestnut to be a closed point of distribution.

Testing continues on several COVID vaccine possibilities. Health experts have said a vaccine is unlikely to be ready before 2021, while widespread distribution may not come until next spring or summer.

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