Though it may seem obvious if you’re a regular reader of this magazine, we wanted to make it clear: We endorse all eligible people getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Collectively, we can bring the pandemic to a much more manageable place if we all do our part to protect ourselves and others. The virus has brought the count to 600,000 deaths in the United States, including 147 in Champaign County. We, like local officials and public health administrators, are doing what we can to use our voice to encourage people to get vaccinated so we can find a return to “normalcy.”
When the vaccine rollout began a few months ago, we didn’t anticipate that we would hit the wall of decreased demand for vaccinations this soon. Vaccine appointments are going unused, which is difficult to comprehend considering just a few months ago we were champing at the bit to get vaccinated. We’ve now reached the point where, odds are, there’s someone in your life who is hesitant to get vaccinated, or simply hasn't done it yet. Vaccines are safe and extremely effective; we encourage you to discuss the value of getting vaccinate with those people in your life.
With less than half of the eligible population vaccinated, there are still too many bodies in which the virus can mutate. Vaccines are how we fight against that. Even though we’ve learned that the existing vaccines are extremely effective against known variants, we will only return to “normal” social, cultural, and economic patterns if a high percentage of the eligible population gets vaccinated, and soon.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, in Champaign County less than 38% of the total population is fully vaccinated. According to Champaign Urbana Public Health District, just under 46% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. On a positive note, that’s better than the counties around us, both in terms of total population and eligible population. Rounding percentages to the nearest whole number for surrounding counties based on total population: Vermillion (22%), Douglas (26%), Ford (30%), and Piatt (32%).
Naturally, the total population percentages are lower based on the rollout and eligibility criteria, but either way you look at it, that’s a lot of unvaccinated people months into the rollout and weeks since the eligibility increased to 16+. The eligibility expanded to include 12+ this week. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the demand for vaccines dwindle, with the 7-day rolling average around 1,000 administered doses per day in Champaign County, per the IDPH dashboard.
We know many unvaccinated people won’t be convinced to get vaccinated by simply reading this article. However, it is likely that they would listen to a loved one that encourages them to do their part. That’s where you come in. These are difficult conversations to have, but if you think you can’t make someone change their mind, you might be surprised. You could literally save a life by having a couple of conversations with someone who trusts and respects what you have to say. Time is of the essence, so now that vaccines are widely available, we must focus on achievable goals at an individual level.
However, not all unvaccinated people are willfully unvaccinated of course. We feel strongly about the value of our health district, as we believe it is doing everything they can to encourage and help those who are eligible to get a vaccine to make an appointment. We asked CUPHD Administrator Julie Pryde what they have been doing to reach into the pockets of the population who don't have easy access to getting a vaccine:
CUPHD, Carle, Christie, and OSF are working with community groups to provide outreach clinics. We have had outreach clinics at all senior housing, jails, settings for homeless individuals, at local events, at faith organizations and churches, and in communities. This will continue. Walk-in clinics will also continue. Please remember that if you have had COVID, you still need to get vaccinated. For information on where to find vaccines: www.vaccines.gov
It is a complex task to get enough people vaccinated, but that goal is only achievable with the help of the community — people like us, people like you. There are plenty of vaccines and vaccine resources out there to hellp you get a shot or help you learn more about them. As community members who believe in the vaccines and their safety, we have to be the conduits between public health and the people in our lives who are unvaccinated.
The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.