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Daily Journal
     April 23, 2021      #12-113 KDJ
Riverside Healthcare president and CEO Phil Kambic expressed growing concerns about Kankakee County's COVID-19 vaccination rate.

Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette

For vaccines, participation has 'fallen off the

By Lee Provost

On Thursday, the weekly first-dose vaccination clinic at Riverside Medical Center had 1,500 doses to distribute to Kankakee County residents.

The nurses and staff were on hand. The two-stage vaccine was ready.

One key ingredient was absent, however. There was a critical shortage of arms to be injected with the Moderna vaccination.

Only 300 vaccines were administered, or about 20 percent of the available medication, was given.

The Riverside clinic is not an aberration. Clinics across Kankakee County, across Illinois and across the country are starting to see vast amounts of doses go unused.

"This week we have fallen off the cliff," said Phil Kambic, Riverside Healthcare's president and CEO. "It's very disappointing. Do we continue on with these clinics if people don't show up?"

In all, as of Thursday, 26 percent, or 22,543 Kankakee County people ages 16 and older — those currently eligible for the vaccination — has been fully vaccinated, meaning they received both the first and second does of Moderna or the one-dose vaccination from Johnson & Johnson.

As of Thursday, Riverside has 3,600 second doses of Moderna scheduled, including 1,191 at the Kankakee Junior High School on Monday.

That percentage, however, is far below the goal of 70 to 75 percent of the county's population receiving the vaccine. The 70 to 75 percent target is the percentage cited by medical experts to establish what is termed "herd immunity." Herd immunity is the level of population needed to be vaccinated to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Kambic and other healthcare officials are seeking for ideas to get people to schedule vaccinations. He noted people want to return to the pre-pandemic life, but that will not happen until vaccine participation reaches the herd threshold.

Getting the remaining participation is going to be difficult and officials are well aware of that. Those who have received the vaccination thus far are those who were largely eager. Those who haven't as yet will be a tougher audience.

"It's getting harder and harder to give out doses," Kambic explained. "What can we do together to get more people to the clinics? We are not at the destination yet. We have the last mile to go. People need the vaccine."

But that brings Kambic back to his original question: How can officials convince people to get the vaccination?

"We're seeing people in their 30, 40 or 50s being hospitalized. This is a good vaccine. Do yourself a favor, your family a favor, the community a favor and get vaccinated," he said.

He said the 25- to 50-year-old age group is really lagging. He noted Blacks and Hispanics vaccination rates are very low as well.

Kambic said a month or two ago he could not have imagined COVID-19 vaccine not being used.

"This is really a surprise to us," he said.

He said his fear is more people will require hospitalization and may ultimately die as a result.

"I do believe that," he said. "Our numbers are not going in the right direction. Let's get the vaccine in people."

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