DANVILLE – According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 50.55 percent of Illinoisans eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines have received them as of June 7, 2021. In Champaign County, 49.75 percent are vaccinated.
But in Vermilion County, only 29 percent of people eligible to receive the vaccine have been immunized.
Illinois Newsroom’s Tinisha Spain talked with Melissa Rome, the Emergency Planning and Response Coordinator in Vermillion County. Rome says misinformation and a lack of resources have contributed to lagging vaccine rates. She also talked about what’s being done to get more shots in arms.
If you can’t make a vaccination appoint online, call 217-431-2662 ext. 263 or 264 and someone can help you.
Melissa Rome: You can put out all of the information, and then one article where you may have somebody who says they’re a doctor or they have a lot of letters behind their name so they must know what they’re talking about, and if that fits how you feel then you’re going to go to that one person who thinks like you. And then, any other information that we give you, even though its coming from multiple reliable sources, it’s not always believed.
Tinisha Spain: Are you happy with the way the information has rolled out from the health department about the clinics? Do you feel good that you cast the net far and wide and did everything you could to get people in line to get shots in arms?
MR: You know most days I think we did a great job. I know in the beginning when we were really rolling out for more of the general public, we did hit a few glitches because the system we were using through the state went on hold the day we were going to go live. So, I’m sure that a lot of people were like ‘well, they don’t know what they’re doing.’ But we opened the phone lines. We had so many people calling that our phone lines actually got shut down, our website crashed. This has definitely been a huge learning process for us. But otherwise I’ve been really satisfied. We’ve given every option. If you want to make an appointment online, you can. We have also a lower income population. We have a very high senior population in our county and not everybody has the internet, not everybody has a smart phone. And so, for people like that they can’t just get online and make an appointment. So, we had schedulers who were able to make calls. We had so many people calling that it would take a while to get to everybody. We’re only a fraction of what we used to be. We used to have almost 80 people staffed. And now fully staffed we’re at about 26 or 27. When you don’t have all the necessary people, it can cause some issues. Otherwise I’m really proud with how we’ve done this. We have gone every avenue that we can think of to try to get the vaccines out.
TS: When you see the numbers for the state and then you look at the numbers for Vermilion County, just as a public health professional, what are your thoughts on that?
MR: It’s very frustrating because our numbers are so much lower, almost by half of what the state is. Vermilion county, we always tend to be kind of the opposite where the state is and not always in a positive way. So, with the vaccinations, we’re headed this way too. You work so hard. And you’re like ‘okay we were three days out at DACC [Danville Area Community College] this week, three days at the airport and we saw a ton of people.’ And then you look at the numbers that IDPH posts every day and we just went up only a teensy amount, and you’re like ‘we gave over a thousand vaccines in just a few days’ but because a lot of them were not from Vermilion County… it wasn’t because they couldn’t get access, they just weren’t signing up… that’s a little disheartening.
One thing though, when we do look at IDPH numbers, one aspect that they don’t have right now is federal numbers. So, our numbers are a little bit higher once you pull in the VA [Veterans Administration Hospital in Danville]. There’s a couple of pharmacies that are receiving vaccinations straight from the feds.