CHAMPAIGN — Some teachers with students back in their classrooms are next in line for COVID-19 vaccinations in Champaign County, possibly as soon as next week.
Those teachers are next in priority for vaccine after older adults, according to Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Deputy Administrator Awais Vaid.
Vaccinations are underway this week for adults 65 and older, who were prioritized after adults 75 and older and those 65 and older with certain health conditions.
Provided there are enough vaccines on the way for next week, vaccination appointments will become available for day care workers with underlying health conditions and K-12 teachers and school support staff with health conditions at schools doing in-person instruction, Vaid said.
Day care staff and K-12 teachers and staff without health conditions at schools with in-person instruction will follow, and up next after that will be Parkland College and University of Illinois faculty members with underlying health conditions who are doing in-person instruction, he said.
“We are still discussing when the Parkland and U of I staff without health conditions will be on the list,” Vaid said. “That has not been finalized yet.”
Champaign County expects to receive 4,000 to 5,000 vaccine doses a week, Vaid said.
Receiving a lower amount could mean delays for those getting their first doses of vaccine to make sure there’s enough for those who must get their second doses at specific times, he said.
Teachers and day care workers doing in-person instruction are part of the essential front-line worker group that is included in vaccination priority phase 1B, which also includes grocery employees, postal workers, manufacturing workers, transportation workers, first responders, correctional officers and inmates.
Day care workers and teachers with students in their classrooms are coming up before other categories in that group because of the potential for them to carry COVID-19 into their schools, Vaid said.
“It’s almost impossible to keep that physical distancing with large groups in small spaces,” Vaid said. “I know they’re trying. I know we tell kids to wear a mask, but we also know compliance is not 100 percent.”
Champaign County was able to get started on vaccinations for older adults about four or five days ahead of other areas of the state because some health care workers — who were offered first priority for vaccination — chose to wait a bit, according to Vaid.
Local officials working together on vaccinations had decided from the start that they wouldn’t wait on people — even health care workers — who turned down the vaccine when they became eligible, but would move on to the next eligible group.
According to a survey done by public health ahead of vaccinations, 60 to 70 percent of health care workers indicated they would get vaccinated at their first opportunity, Vaid said.
Now that Champaign County has done more than 18,000 vaccinations without issue, some health care workers who chose to wait — or who were ill or out of town at the time — have sought out vaccination appointments, he said.
To date, 65 percent of Christie Clinic’s staff has been vaccinated, according to Christie Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Pierce.
Of the 8,200 people in Carle’s vaccine-eligible work force systemwide, 6,086 have been vaccinated, according to Carle spokesman Kaleb Miller. Of those, 4,115 are in Champaign County.
Miller also said 83 percent of Carle’s doctors, advance practice nurses and physician assistants in Champaign County have been vaccinated.
“Because of the phased approach to vaccination set by the Illinois Department of Public Health, we anticipate more employees will begin receiving their first dose when we move into the next phases of the vaccination plan,” Miller said.
Vaid said people have become increasingly comfortable about getting vaccinated as the federal government’s message has grown more consistent that the vaccine is effective.
The vaccines can also protect against the new, potentially more deadly B117 variant strain first found in the United Kingdom, he said. A few probable B117 cases have turned up in Champaign County that are waiting on confirmation through a state lab, Vaid said.
“I think it’s important that as your turn comes, get vaccinated,” he urged.
For the most part, older adults haven’t needed a nudge, with available vaccine appointments filling up fast.
Still waiting among older adults are some living in long-term-care facilities. Long-term-care staffs and residents are being vaccinated under a separate program run by the state under contract with CVS and Walgreens.
The public health district verified Monday that all remaining long-term-care facilities in Champaign County have been scheduled for vaccinations before Feb. 12, Vaid said.