Approximately 100 people were turned away from a suburban vaccination facility on Saturday when they tried to use reservations that had been made for other people, an unexpected problem that has McHenry County public health officials considering their options on how to avoid a repeat of the incident.
According to McHenry County Public Health Nursing Director Susan Karras, the attempt by individuals to use the appointments was “disheartening” in a time when vaccine doses are limited due to shipping issues caused by recent bad weather.
“Those are missed opportunities, because they are using those limited spaces that we have, or limited doses that we have,” she said. “They are taking those opportunities away from those people who do qualify, and that we are trying to target.”
Karras says that the vaccine rollout has been going well in McHenry County, but it hit a glitch over the weekend when people began sharing the links they received by email to set up appointments.
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“We are having to turn them away because we are trying to focus on priority groups,” she said. “We don’t want people jumping in the line outside of those groups.”
Karras says the reservation emails explicitly tell residents not to share the links with others, and the county is considering penalties for those who do.
“Our State’s Attorney’s Office is looking, and my understanding is that they are reviewing this and we are expecting to hear their opinion (on penalties) soon,” she said. “I would hope that people aren’t cheating the system, and I hope that it was a misunderstanding.”
She says that she hopes that residents anxious to get shots remain patient, and that others who are setting up appointments can continue to follow rules designed to ensure equitable access.
“I do understand. I do believe that people think that ‘I’ve already got my shot, I’ve got my link, (so) I will give it to my friend who needs the shot or wants the shot,’” she said. “(But) we just don’t have the doses.”
The goal of the health department in McHenry County is to finish providing vaccinations to healthcare workers and those in Phase 1A before turning their full attention to those in Phase 1B. Like other counties around the Chicago area, McHenry County will not be extending vaccine eligibility to those with pre-existing conditions, something the state of Illinois as a whole has begun to do this week.
Even still, Karras says she knows there are more vaccine doses on the way, and she is hopeful that the process will continue to pick up steam in the coming weeks.
“I believe it will be a popular vaccine, and we are excited about it. It can be a game-changer,” she said.