DuPage County expects to start administering about 13,000 COVID-19 vaccinations this week after receiving its first vaccine distribution, health department officials said last week.
The allotment will only cover a portion of the 58,000 health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff in DuPage who have been determined to be the highest priority for vaccinations, officials said.
Because it’s not known how many doses will be included in future weekly vaccine deliveries, it’s possible it could be several months before the first group is entirely vaccinated, officials said.
“We have extremely limited supplies of vaccines so far,” health department Executive Director Karen Ayala told the DuPage County Board in a presentation Tuesday. “We don’t want to overpromise what is coming. I think the most important thing is, whatever the amount, we are planning for weekly distributions.”
Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood has been designated a regional vaccine distribution center for DuPage and Will counties and a portion of Cook County, Ayala said.
County health department officials will be responsible for coordinating vaccine delivery to locations in their counties, she said.
It will be up to hospitals and care facilities that receive the vaccine to determine who in the top-priority group will be vaccinated first, DuPage County Director of Community Health Resources Chris Hoff said. Most likely emergency room and ICU staff, COVID-19 care unit workers and those who handle inpatient services will receive the first shots, he said.
Pfizer is the first company expected to have its vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and released for delivery.
They will likely be followed by Moderna, which could have its vaccine approved next week and out for distribution the week of Dec. 20. Once that happens, the number of doses available in DuPage and elsewhere will increase, health department officials said.
Two shots are required to achieve up 90% to 95% virus protection so 13,000 doses will not mean 13,000 people have been vaccinated. The second shot must be administered three to four weeks after the first and both vaccines must come from the same manufacturer.
Once the highest-priority group is vaccinated, health officials will move on to vaccinating others in the first phase group, which includes first responders, essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and adults 65 and older, Ayala said.
“Even for our higher-risk residents, it may be a couple of months,” she said.
One additional complication is the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored in ultracold freezers, Ayala said. The freezers purchased by DuPage have yet to arrive so they are partnering with private groups that can provide storage with temperatures that go to 70 degrees Celsius/-94 degrees Fahrenheit, she said.
DuPage is still finalizing plans on how to mass administer the vaccinations, and determining if a drive-through setup is viable, Ayala said. Next week, the health department plans to launch a campaign making people aware of the vaccine and quelling fears about its safety, she said.