Six rural counties added to Illinois vaccine initiative

Six rural counties will be sent a specialized rural vaccination team to increase their vaccine distribution capacity. It is estimated that more than 8,000 people will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks due to the program.

Those being served by the program will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a one-shot vaccine that does not require those is rural areas to have to schedule a follow up shot, which could be a problem with limited availability and capacity.

 

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The program began two weeks ago in nine rural counties. It will be expanded by six counties after an additional 4,700 doses were distributed in the opening weeks.

Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement about the program’s expansion:

“Our Rural Vaccination Program is seeing extraordinary results in its first weeks and I’m thrilled to see this program expand to additional counties. These sites bring thousands of doses directly into the community, reducing transportation barriers and ensuring residents in all corners of Illinois have access to this life-saving vaccine.”

Delivering vaccines to rural communities has been a challenge across the country. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require extremely cold temperatures to be safely stored. This can make delivering doses of the vaccines to less populated areas both challenging and expensive. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine saves some of those troubles, though, as it only requires regular refrigeration for storage.

Many rural areas may not have the capacity or staff necessary to distribute vaccines at a large scale either. On top of that, some rural areas have not received the vaccine allocations they need from their states as urban, denser, areas are often prioritized.

Additional funding and additional staff to Illinois’ rural areas could quell some of those issues.

The governor expanding the vaccine initiative comes as the state receives a $124 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand their vaccination efforts.

The following counties will be included in the vaccination effort:

  • Kankakee County
  • Vermilion County
  • Livingston County
  • Coles County
  • DeWitt County
  • White County