By Steve Warmowski
Photos by Steve Warmowski
Click on photo to start captioned slideshow
The Morgan County Health Department administered 426 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine during a drive-through clinic Thursday, January 21 at the Morgan County Fairgrounds. Everything went smoothly, but officials are asking the public to not come early and create long lines for future clinics.
Dale Bainter, director of the Morgan County Health Department, said reservations are made for only the amount of vaccine on hand. Those registered can come right before the end of a clinic, and there will still be a dose of vaccine waiting, so there’s no reason to sit for hours in a long line of cars. He said at one time Thursday cars stretched all the way down Westgate Avenue to Morton Avenue, with 300 cars lined up at the start of the clinic.
One of the first in the line to get shots were Keith and Phyllis Lape, both 84 and of Jacksonville. The couple arrived early, “because we come early to everything,” said Phyllis Lape. She said she’s very happy to get the vaccine and is looking forward to getting her second dose because it would allow her to more safely visit with family.
Both Phyllis and Keith Lape are active in the community, especially with the Rotary Club of Jacksonville and First Presbyterian Church. Nowadays, that means a lot of Zoom meetings as they try to limit contact.
Keith Lape says he’s been pulling back from some of the 20 committees he serves on, because last year he had an accident that broke two vertebrae, and also needed an aortic valve procedure. He said he’s happy to get the vaccine so he can keep up his involvement in the community. Keith said he and Phyllis lost a good Rotarian friend from O’Fallon to COVID-19. “That made the pandemic more realistic for me, more than anything I’ve heard or seen on TV”
Keith said he remembered growing up in Vandalia and needing to isolate from polio. He said his family would regularly come to town to see a movie, get groceries and visit with friends. But when polio was prevalent, his family would skip the show and visits and just get provisions. He remembers getting polio, smallpox and scarlet fever vaccines. He said the COVID jab was painless, and he had no discomfort from immune system reactions to the vaccine.
The Lapes and others from this first vaccine clinic are to return Thursday, February 18 for their second dose. The health department also administered approximately 530 vaccines Tuesday, January 26 for registered people age 75 and up or a tier 1A medical provider. If you’re in that group and have not yet signed up, call the health department at 479-1817 to get on the waiting list.
Morgan County officials are grateful for last Thursday’s weather – sunny with a high near 50 degrees. But looking forward, other events will probably have more typical winter weather. Watch media reports and the Jacksonville/Morgan County Office of Emergency Management Facebook page for updates for any adjustments to location or other details for the clinics.
Director Bainter said the department is trying to inoculate as many people as soon as possible, but the limiting factor will be the number of vaccine doses received by the county health department. Once notified of how many doses are on their way, schedulers work through the current waiting list. Bainter said once this current waiting list is complete, there will be a call for the next age tier and other groups to get the vaccine. Bainter said other locations in the state are giving out vaccines in different ways like first come first served, but Morgan County is putting in the effort for a more organized distribution.
Bainter said he’s especially touched to see veterans getting the vaccine. “I take tremendous pride to see them come through the line, to think about what they have given to the country, and hopefully what we’re doing is a way to pay them back.” He’s also encouraged to see the independence and vitality in this 75 and better vaccine group and is glad the COVID vaccine along with wearing masks and distancing will keep people safer as the nation tackles the pandemic. He’s glad that now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
The clinic was staffed by approximately 25 health department employees, Passavant Area Hospital and Memorial Medical System workers, as well as volunteers. Administrating the doses doesn’t come with any advance funds from the state or federal government. The clinic is funded with local monies from the health department and the Jacksonville/Morgan County Office of Emergency Management, which then apply for a reimbursement grant.