Ask an expert - KAREN AYALA, DUPAGE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Last updated 2/3/2021 at 3:43pm | View PDF
What's the status of the COVID-19 vaccine in DuPage?
The COVID-19 vaccine is here. But exactly where is it? And when will it be widely available?
Karen Ayala, executive director of the DuPage County Health Department, said the vaccine is in limited supply as residents 65 and older and frontline essential workers are inoculated under Phase 1b of the state's guidelines.
Vaccinating the nearly 270,000 DuPage residents who meet Phase 1b criteria could take another 12 weeks based on current vaccine availability, Ayala estimated.
"Based on the amount of vaccine we are currently receiving each week, Phase 1c would tentatively begin around May and Phase 2 may begin in July," she said of the remaining stages to reach everyone.
Unfolding developments could alter that timeline. It was announced this week that retail pharmacies across the country would begin receiving direct shipments of vaccines starting next week. And Ayala said Johnson & Johnson's single-shot dose is expected to be the next one available in the U.S., joining the two-shot vaccines being administered now.
"As vaccine supply increases over time and additional vaccination sites become available, the health department expects the rate of vaccination will increase and we may be able to move into the next phases much sooner than anticipated," Ayala stated.
DuPage residents should go to https://www.dupagehealth.org and register to receive updates as vaccination appointments for their corresponding phase become available. They should get vaccinated at "the first opportunity available, which may be through their health care provider, private pharmacy, or medical group," she said.
The adult population is the focus of the vaccination drive as children in general seem to experience less severe effects of the virus. Ayala said vaccine trials in adolescents are in progress, and pharmaceutical companies are expected to roll out plans for treating younger children.
"We anticipate COVID-19 vaccine may be available to children in the coming months," she said.
Families in minority communities have been hit disproportionately hard, Ayala noted, underscoring the need to vaccinate as many people as possible.
"This burden will continue and grow if we don't vaccinate and we just wait for herd immunity to occur over time," she said.
Ayala recognizes that some are apprehensive about getting the vaccine. She said people should feel assured that more than 70,000 people volunteered in clinical trials for the vaccines, and no serious health concerns were found. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved them for safe and effective use.
"If someone gets COVID-19, they also risk giving it to loved ones who may get sick. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer choice," she said.
The vaccine is available to everyone for free, including those without insurance. And even after receiving it, keep wearing a mask and following other health guidelines.
"Continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions," Ayala said.
- by Ken Knutson