A McLean County Board member says the county and Bloomington-Normal hospitals are administering COVID-19 vaccines as fast as they can, but distribution from the state has been inconsistent.
Susan Schafer, who chairs the board’s Health Committee, said during Thursday’s county board meeting that nearly all the vaccines the county receives are in arms within a week.
“It’s not that the health department is moving slowly, or that any of our partner health providers are moving slowly, which I have seen on social media and the impression that people in the public have,” said Schafer, who also serves on the county's Board of Health.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), more than 4,600 COVID vaccines have been administered in McLean County and 132 people have received both doses.
The county’s rate of fully vaccinated is .08%, according to IDPH. That percentage is tied for 10th lowest among Illinois' 102 counties.
“We are giving it out as fast as we can get it, and if we got more, we would give more,” said Schafer, noting the county expected to trail other counties because the state designated the first vaccines go the counties with the highest COVID death rates.
“We are a week behind everybody,” she said.
Schafer said the county is scheduled to receive 2,200 doses from the state early next week, but added the county gets little warning about when vaccine shipments will come and how many doses they will include.
McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight has said it probably will be several weeks before the county can begin to move on to the Phase 1b priority group that includes essential workers and people age 65 and over.
Schafer noted the county has about 22,000 residents over age 65.
Children’s Advocacy Center
In another matter, the county board approved by a 14-6 vote an agreement to lease space for the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) for McLean, Livingston and DeWitt counties, though several Democratic board members objected to working with an organization they argue doesn’t fully support reproductive rights.
The county will pay Hope Pregnancy Center $5,400 per month to use second-floor space in the building in downtown Pontiac. It’s an extension of a previous agreement the county has had with the pregnancy center.
Board member Sharon Chung said paying rent to the organization implies support for its mission.
“I, as a firm supporter of reproductive rights and comprehensive sexual education, I cannot in good conscience support this lease and payment to an organization that while at face value, looks like they support these things, they do anything but that,” Chung said.
Board member George Wendt supported the lease agreement and said board members should be willing to look past philosophical differences with organizations.
“I think we’re getting into an area that’s really very divisive to start down this road,” Wendt said. "It's the economics of it, and it's just getting kind of ridiculous to go down this road."
Schafer said the CAC has tried to find other sites, but this location was convenient and affordable and the original lease agreement preceded the current owners.
Board members Hannah Beer, Lea Cline, Val Laymon, Shayna Watchinski and Laurie Wollrab also voted against the agreement.
Board member Laurie Wollrab condemned the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 that she said was “incited by elected officials sworn to uphold our Constitution."
She added the board's eight other Democratic members support a statement she read to the board.
“Let’s be clear, there is no equivalence between a mob assault on our seat of government and that of looters and common vandals,” Wollrab told the board.
County Board member Chuck Erickson responded by comparing the riots in the halls of Congress with last summer’s looting after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, adding, “Democracy requires gracious winners and good losers.
“There are many who feel wronged but it doesn’t justify the actions of those who (looted) and burned our cities last spring and summer no more than stormed the Capitol last week,” Erickson said.
Health department public affairs
The board also approved creating a public affairs coordinator position in the McLean County Health Department to help promote vaccine clinics and other public events, while overseeing the department’s social media and other correspondence.
It’s part of a staff reorganization that follows one retirement and one promotion within the department, creating a cost savings of $30,000 to the county. The new position offers a $55,000 salary.
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