By Stephanie Malench
On March 10, the Madison County Health Department and the Illinois National Guard held a special tour for the media of the mass vaccination clinic at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville. Wednesday is the only day of the week clinics are not held.
Amy Yeager, Director of Community Health and Public Information Officer, reminds the public that even though the mass vaccination clinics are going on, the health department is still doing contact tracing, testing, youth vaccinations, education, and data collection.
Yeager also wants those who follow the dashboard on the county website and social media that the numbers and percentages of those vaccinated does not include vaccinations provided by Walgreens, CVS, hospitals, and long-term care facilities, making the numbers higher than those on the dashboard.
The first vaccinations were given to health care workers on December 18. The mass vaccination clinics began on January 15 two days a week using just health department personnel and volunteers. Once the Illinois National Guard was called in to help on February 23, the clinic slowly started adding days until they are now vaccinating up to 2,340 eligible patients each day. The most recent Census data (2010- 2020 has not been released yet) reports that 262,966 persons reside in Madison County.
The current criteria to receive a vaccine through the Madison County Health Department include being an Illinois resident who lives or works in Madison County, be eligible to receive the vaccine under Illinois Phase 1a, Phase 1b, or Phase 1b+ (see sidebar of eligibility requirements). ID and proof of eligible employment, if applicable must be show on arrival and you must attest to eligibility in one of the current phases.
In addition to the mass vaccination center at the convention center, Madison County runs a clinic at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey and began holding mobile clinics on February 22 in areas where people of color and Spanish speakers have barriers getting to the mass vaccination sites.
To schedule an appointment through one of the County sites, go to www.madisonchd.org and if appointments are available there will be a link in green to click on. Appointments can also be made by calling (618)650-8445 Monday through Friday from 8:30a.m.-4:30p.m.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Brad Leighton with the Illinois National Guard, there are 20 county run mass vaccination clinics run by county health departments across the state and 40 mobile clinics supported by 1,300 Illinois National Guard soldiers, with authorization for up to 2,000. Madison County run sites are assisted by 60 soldiers and airmen assigned to military action teams. The Convention Center site has four teams made up of 12 soldiers and 6 contracted nurses.
Madison County also has a list of 500 medical reserve volunteers that help out not only at the mass vaccination sites, but at the mobile clinics and at the office.
Because of these collaborations and staffing supports, residents that come to get vaccinated at the Gateway Convention Center can expect to be in and out in 20-25 minutes. As you enter the back parking lot, National Guard soldiers will direct you where to park. Once you turn into the parking lot, turn the radio to 94.1 FM to hear when each time slot is being called in (they may be running ahead or behind).
To enter, the patient with the appointment will have to have the printed QR code and ID ready. The QR code serves several functions, including helping the staff determine where there may be a hiccup in the process and track how long it takes to get through the entire process.
Once inside, patients will be guided through the line by a guardsman or directed to sit in a waiting area. The floors are marked with tape to help people stay six feet apart all the way from the entrance to the exit. Each step in the process has six different people to handle six patients.
The last step before the vaccine is given is to answer a few questions about current medications and health conditions so that screeners can determine if the person needs to wait 15 or 30 minutes in observation after the shot or if the person should go to a hospital to be vaccinated in case there is a severe reaction.
The vaccines are predrawn into needles in the correct doses in a “pharmacy” at the back of the vaccination area and given to each of the nurses that administer the vaccination.
As of March 14, the Madison County Health Department has fully vaccinated 31,479 residents or persons who work in Madison County.