Vaccine clinics scheduled, but demand in question

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The Monroe County Health Department will host two vaccination clinics in the next week.

The first is set for Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. The Moderna vaccine will be available.

The next clinic is scheduled for Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the fairgrounds, with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines being available in first and second doses. The second doses are for those who got their first Moderna shot April 12 or sooner or their first Pfizer-BioNTech shot April 19 or sooner.

The Johnson & Johnson shot will not be available at any of the clinics. 

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said he will monitor interest to determine whether to continue having them as vaccine demand lags despite the county not even having a majority of its residents fully vaccinated. 

“We’re going to gauge the desire to see if we can keep the mass clinics going or if we have to draw them back,” Wagner said. “There’s just not a lot of demand out there.”  

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports Monroe County has administered 26,909 doses of COVID vaccines. There are 12,923 people fully vaccinated here – meaning 37.64 percent of the county has received both shots.

This comes as the IDPH added another death to Monroe County’s death toll, putting it at 91. The death, reported Wednesday, was of a man in his 70s.

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner stopped reporting such deaths on April 1, saying then that “the accuracy of the state classifying individuals is not consistent with the level of truth that I as the administrator am comfortable with.”

Monroe County offered first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines Monday and Tuesday, and Wagner said it appears the worrying trend of decreased vaccine demand is continuing. 

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” he said of demand. “It’s obviously dropped off a whole lot, but we still do have some coming in for first doses.” 

Wagner said a “significant number” of local residents still show up for first doses, and his department will continue to have clinics as long as that continues, but progress in protecting Monroe County’s population against COVID-19 has slowed. 

The health department hosted a first-dose clinic Monday afternoon at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, offering both two-shot vaccines. 

“It was really busy yesterday with a lot of second doses and some people coming in for first doses,” Wagner said Tuesday. “It went well.” 

Nevertheless, the county had about 60 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine leftover from a clinic last week, so a small clinic at Bolm-Schuhkraft Park in Columbia took place Tuesday. 

“We’re trying not to waste anything, and since it’s time-sensitive, we wanted to go to a place where we could get 60 people through pretty quickly,” Wagner explained. “We’re also using it kind of as a trial. If we have a ton of people come out to try to get these 60 doses, then we’ll try to set up a mass vaccination here at the park if there’s a big need up here.”

Wagner said he was not sure if there was low turnout from Columbia residents at the clinics at the fairgrounds. 

If a clinic does take place in Columbia, it would be in about two weeks. 

“It would take a lot of logistics, but we can do it,” Wagner noted. “It just takes a lot of planning.” 

Monroe County will have some more vaccine supply next week, but Wagner said he does not know if that will help. The county will have more doses at its disposal after the Centers for Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended lifting the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The distribution of that vaccine was temporarily halted after six women out of the more than 6.8 million United States residents who got the vaccine had a rare and severe type of blood clot combined with low blood platelet levels. 

The CDC and FDA review found a total of 15 cases of that adverse reaction, all between women ages 18-59, but the agencies still said they had “confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.” 

The agencies also ruled that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks, noting the chance of having the blood clots is “very low.” 

Wagner said Monroe County has about 150 doses of the Johnson & Johnson left from when distribution was paused. The plan is to offer that shot beginning at a large first-dose Moderna clinic planned for sometime next week. 

Individuals who want the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine can request it, and volunteers will direct those administering the vaccine to use it for that person. 

“I have no idea what the public opinion is going to be on J&J from here on out,” Wagner said. “We’re trying to gauge how many people want it so we can decide what we want to order.” 

If there does not appear to be demand for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Wagner said he will not order more of it. National Guard sites in the state are still offering it as well. 

In addition to the county health department, individuals can now also get vaccinated at Mercy Hospital by visiting mercy.net/MOVaccineInfo or by scheduling an appointment at the Waterloo Walmart, which now also gives shots, at walmart.com/COVIDvaccine. That hospital joins Red Bud Regional Hospital, Memorial Hospital and Walgreens pharmacies as other nearby locations Monroe County residents can get the shots.

Illinois overall has administered 9,450,418 doses of the vaccine and received over 11.9 million doses. A total of 4,145,711 residents have gotten both shots, which means 32.54 percent of Illinois is fully vaccinated.

Monroe County has had a total of 4,379 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, about 36 of which are active. One resident remains hospitalized with the virus. There have been 25 new cases since April 21.

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 2,223 cases (27,565 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,666 cases (11,834 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 168 cases (1,087 tests), according to the IDPH. 

Monroe County’s seven-day rolling average test positivity rate was 2.9 percent on May 1. The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the metro east was 2.9 percent on May 1. The region has 36 percent of its ICU staffed beds available.

In St. Clair County, there have been 30,569 total positive tests and 477 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 344,175 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 4,144 confirmed cases, eight of which are active. Eighty-five people have died from the virus there.

Illinois overall is up to 1,343,988 cases of coronavirus and 22,066 deaths. There are 1,963 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 493 people in ICU beds.

Missouri has recorded 503,615 confirmed cases and 8,814 deaths. That includes 80,493 cases in St. Louis County and 21,052 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 32.4 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 577,378 people have died.

Worldwide, there have been over 153.5 million cases of coronavirus and over 3.2 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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