ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago County Health Director Dr. Sandra Martell blamed miscommunication for a delay in a shipment of second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine which resulted in postponed appointments this week.
“Let me be crystal clear: neither Dr. Martell or her team missed anything,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara at this week’s press conference, expressing irritation at reports that Martell was responsible for the delay. “This is not the time to point fingers. We need to focus our energy on getting as many people vaccinated as we can.”
“Situations are rapidly evolving and typical communication systems are overwhelmed. I want to be clear that it was the understanding of the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) that we were to administer all available vaccine as first dose that we had received,” she said. “We were told not to hold back. That the systems would be prepared to provide us with our second doses. And I want to also be clear that our health system partners assisted us with those first doses and they were also not instructed not to hold back any allocation for second doses.”
She also said WCHD plans three weeks ahead in allocating vaccine for second doses and confirm the amount with the state, letting the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) know where they are short.
Martell said she couldn’t explain it, but said her office did not receive a shipping notice for the second doses, so they contacted people scheduled to receive the shots this week and postponed the appointments.
Martell said the WCHD did receive the doses it ordered, just later than expected.
“The second doses arrived this morning and are being distributed to health system to be given to health systems that were postponed this week,” she said.
Martell also said that health systems are reaching out to reschedule second vaccination appointments, and asked the public not to call and overwhelm healthcare workers, and those who were passed over this week are on high-priority on the scheduling list.
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McNamara asked for patience, saying, “Millions of Americans including Rockfordians and residents of Winnebago County are eager, anxious, and, very naturally, a bit impatient to receive their vaccine. The process is incredibly complex. The bottom line is that we are ramping up vaccinations here locally and we are making progress.”
Over 12,000 vaccinations have been carried out by the WCHD so far in Winnebago County, not including those administered by hospitals and pharmacies.
More than 4,000 people were treated in the first week the new National Guard run vaccination site at the former Kmart on Sandy Hollow Road was in operation.
Well over 90,000 people are registered to receive a vaccination through the WCHD’s website.
McNamara also said Rockford has a lot of residents in Phase1A because people around the area come to the city for long-term care centers.
Martell said there are plans to open a vaccination site on Rockford’s West side to access minority communities. Only 5% of registrations so far identified themselves as African American.
On Wednesday, the IDPH announced current and former smokers are now eligible to receive a vaccine in Phase 1B of the distribution, which is underway.
The expanded list of eligible conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, heart conditions, immunosuppressed states from a solid organ transplant, smoking, obesity, pregnancy, pulmonary disease, and sickle cell disease.
Martell also said the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine, which was approved by the FDA last week, should be arriving in Winnebago County by the end of this week. While studies have shown it is less effective than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at preventing COVID-19 infection, Martell said it is 100% effective for preventing death.
The WCHD said there are 20 new cases in the county to report, for a total of 26,813 cases since the pandemic began. Two new deaths were reported. The region’s current rolling positivity rate is 2.3%.