SKOKIE, IL — Village staff said they plan to establish both open and closed clinics to administer the coronavirus vaccine to Skokie residents. The point of dispensary, or POD, clinics will first be open only to those who qualify as a member of a priority group before eventually opening up to all interested residents once sufficient vaccine supply becomes available.
Mike Charley, the village's director of health and human services, said Monday the village plans to operate a POD in several rooms at the Arie Crown Hebrew Day School, 7770 Frontage Road. While the village has only received a small amount of vaccine so far, he said the supply is projected to increase quickly.
"We've been planning for several months in order to prepare to administer the vaccine to those critical first responders, health care workers and residents of the village of Skokie," Charley said.
The village health department, one of three municipal departments within suburban Cook County, received is first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 17 and a second shipment on Dec. 22, according to Charley. Those 1,800 doses were delivered directly to hospitals, he said.
"All vaccine that is sent out to the village of Skokie is sent through the health department, but the first two shipments actually got shipped directly to the NorthShore University HealthSystem," he told trustees. "They actually got sent directly to Evanston Hospital. But because it's a hospital system, what they did with our vaccine is: they've administered vaccine to all the front-line health care workers at Skokie Hospital."
On Dec. 28, the village received 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine, followed by another 800 doses Monday, Charley said.
"Our plan with the vaccine we're receiving — the Moderna vaccine — is to start vaccinating Skokie's population, organizations, groups in phases," he said. "We have so far vaccinated health and human services staff, we have vaccinated our first responders, our EMS, and we've also vaccinated some police department staff and our public works staff, a small number."
The health director said he expects to vaccinate about 120 village staff at another, larger "closed POD" on Tuesday. He said the village was prioritizing getting the vaccine to staff that will be assigned to work at PODs open to the public in the future.
"We want to make sure that the staff that's working these larger, open point of dispensary clinics, are vaccinated to keep them safe. Because if we had staff going down at our PODs, at our point of dispensing operations, we're not going to be able to vaccinate," Charley said. "So all the people we're vaccinating now are going to be actually working at our closed and open PODs."
Village staff plan to vaccinate members of Skokie's medical reserve corps Tuesday, followed by student vaccinators from Oakton Community College on Jan. 12. The following week, another closed POD clinic is planned for health care workers who work in non-hospital settings such as federally qualified health clinics or private medical providers.
Charley said the village's hopes to have sufficient doses of the vaccine to expand to Phase 1b — defined as people over age 75 and front-line essential workers — in February, before potentially moving at the end of March to Phase 1c — everyone 65 and up, people with comorbidities and a wider swath of essential workers.
"We don't know if we're going to have sufficient vaccine to vaccinate according to his timeline. We're guessing at this point. The state does not say we're getting this much vaccine on this date, this much vaccine on this," he said. "I know right now we have 800 doses we received today and 500 doses we received last week. I have no idea exactly how many doses we're going to receive moving forward, but this is assumption we're making."
According to the Illinois Department of Public Heath, 83 percent of the state's population above age 16 falls into Phases 1a, 1b and 1c. Phase 2 includes everyone else, an estimated 1.7 million people.
Charley said he had been briefed by state public health officials on a new vaccine registration system a couple hours before Monday's village board meeting. The system is called "EM Track" and is expected to be operational "soon," he said.
"Essentially people in the village will be given a link, and [with] that link, based upon their eligibility and what phase they belong in, they will be allowed to register for our open PODs or closed PODs," he said.
In response to questions about why suburban Cook County — unlike Lake County or Will County — had not prepared such a registration to allowing people to provide their age, employment and health status for the opportunity to receive a vaccine once they qualify, Cook County Department of Public Health officials last month said they did not want to duplicate a forthcoming state effort.
It could not be immediately confirmed whether that effort was the same as the state's EM Track system. No details about the system were available from Illinois Department of Public Health representatives Tuesday morning. Any information received will be added here.
Illinois has administered less than 42 percent of the vaccine doses sent to the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination tracker. As of Tuesday morning, more than 427,000 doses of vaccine had been sent to Illinois but fewer than 177,000 doses had been administered.
Charley said the village plans to mainly use the Moderna vaccine, which does not require the same ultra-cold storage as Pfizer's, at its clinics, and to send doses of the Pfizer vaccine to local hospitals.
"Our goal is to not stockpile this stuff. We do not want this stuff sitting in our refrigerator or our freezer," he said. "We want to open our PODs as soon as possible. I will say there are some logistical things we have to work on — such as just getting the EM Track scheduling system presentation for the first time today — that we have to work out before I think we'll feel comfortable opening up some of the larger PODs and getting this vaccine out to the public."