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Stateline health departments add new strategies amid plunging vaccination rates

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Vaccination rates across that state and in the Stateline have seen a significant decline over the past seven days.

Each of the Stateline's five counties saw a double digit percentage drop in their seven day rolling vaccination rate according to IDPH.

  • Boone County: 13.2% decrease
  • Winnebago County: 25.4% decrease
  • Ogle County: 33.6% decrease
  • Stephenson County: 48.6% decrease
  • Lee County: 53.4% decrease

Stephenson County Public Health Administrator Craig Beintema says the biggest issue is no longer having enough vaccines, it's getting people to actually take them.

"We have seen that with our recent national guard clinic where we were allotted 800 and we got 145 (vaccinated)" Beintema said

Winnebago County has also seen similar struggles and hoped to bring numbers back up by making walk-in vaccination hours available, but so far, the county has seen mixed results.

After vaccinating 160 walk ins on the first day it was offered, April 26, April 30, May 1 and May 2 brought in a combined 115.

While Public Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell believes some of the was due to nice weather over the weekend, that won't stop her from continuing this strategy and employing others.

"We will continue to offer that opportunity throughout this time frame," Martell said. "The idea being that we need to continue our efforts in our entire community from all the different strategies to get as many people vaccinated as possible."

That strategy now includes mobile clinics at local high schools. Martell says the department will host clinics at South Beloit and Hononegah High Schools not only for students between 16 and 18 years of age (that could change soon with Pfizer's vaccine expected to be approved for teens between 12 and 15 later this week) but also for their families and other members of the community. The county will also hold clinics at Winnebago, Durand and Pecatonica High Schools.

Beintema and Stephenson County will also lean on schools to roll out vaccines to younger people. However, Beintema has more of a focus on colleges and universities, and cites an ongoing relationship with Highland Community College with multiple small clinics over the past few months.

Beintema also believes high education could be a major role player in getting a large part of the 18 to 24-year-olds vaccinated.

"I suspect during the summer we'll begin to see people who are college bound or school bound that the schools will be making it mandatory that you have that (the vaccine)" Beintema said.

Stephenson County's vaccination rate for the 16-64 population stands at 26.4% which is only one percentage point higher than last week despite growing supply according to Beintema. By comparison, he says over 70% of people over the age of 64 have at least their first dose of the vaccine.

Both Beintema and Martell say that if vaccine rates continue to trickle along, the region could see a steady rise in cases throughout the summer as people go out and about for vacations and events. They both had concerns over new cases potentially creating new variants the current vaccines don't account for. Illinois has about a third of its population vaccinated with many experts including Martell and Beintema saying it will take close to 70% to achieve herd immunity.

Martell added that if people in Winnebago County want to utilize walk-in hours that they avoid coming both in the first hour and last hour of the day.

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William Ingalls

William Ingalls is the weekend reporter at WREX. He joined the team in 2019 as a photographer after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and English from Augustana College. William was born and raised in Rockford and went to high school at Christian Life.

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