Op-Ed: On the Need for Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines

State Senator Patrick Joyce
State Senator Patrick Joyce. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)
Sen. Patrick Joyce
D-Essex, 40th State Senate District

ENEWSPF- One thing is on my constituents’ minds these days, besides this recent cold snap: When can I and my loved ones get the COVID-19 vaccine?

There are no easy answers to that question right now. But rest assured, we are demanding answers.

I was part of a long Illinois Senate committee hearing earlier this month where we brought in the Governor’s administration and officials with Walgreens and CVS to push for answers. It’s clear we still have far more demand for vaccines than we can meet across the state, and it likely will remain that way for some time.

Locally, I have been pushing on two issues: advance notice and waste prevention.

I have been impressed by our local health departments’ tireless work to make the chaos of administering vaccines work as well as they can. The Kankakee County Health Department has created a system where if they have excess vaccine from a shipment, they work with other nearby health care providers to get those vaccines as quickly as possible to eligible people before those doses expire.

I have called on the Illinois Department of Public Health to create a statewide database to exactly track where each dose is headed and to share that information with everyone, so no doses are ever wasted. When we have so many people waiting for this care, it’s the least we can do to assure our constituents we are managing what we are receiving responsibly.

During the Senate committee hearing, I pressed state health officials for another critical vaccine administration problem: planning. How can my four local health departments adequately distribute vaccine supplies when they learn on a Wednesday that their latest shipment will be ready on Friday?

The department said it is working to lengthen the advance notice to where local health departments know what their supply levels will be for the following three weeks.

These changes will help, but we will not truly be effective at protecting our people until we can significantly increase our supply. Having less than 300,000 new doses each week to treat nearly 13 million Illinoisans will make for a long spring and beyond.

I am confident the Pritzker Administration is hearing our concerns and working to address them. We will continue to push for answers and for fairness in this vaccine process.

In the meantime, we must remain vigilant. Wearing masks, avoiding public gatherings, washing our hands and keeping our distance has greatly helped to reduce our infection numbers these last couple of months and to allow us to reopen our restaurants, schools and other locations.

As we head into warmer, spring weather in March, I am hopeful we will build on this momentum and put this pandemic in the rearview mirror. The Senate has been working remotely for the first couple of months this year, but we are looking to be able to safely reconvene in Springfield in March to dig into the enormous work ahead of us this spring.

Join us in following the social distancing guidelines, and please take advantage of getting your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible. I urge you to contact me anytime I can help: 708-756-0882, or at http://www.senatorpatrickjoyce.com/. I will continue to share the latest news on my website and on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/senPatrickjoyce40/.

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