In recent weeks, it's been comforting to see tangible examples of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout locally, with first doses administered in late December to first responders and over the past weekend to residents and staff at Cantata Adult Life Services in Brookfield.
Those folks will be getting their second doses within weeks, while more first-dose vaccines will be administered to employees and residents at Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care in North Riverside next week.
That is truly excellent news.
However, there are entire populations of elderly citizens who are not living in long-term care facilities, employees of retail businesses that put them into contact with those who are knowingly and unknowingly positive for COVID-19, as well as the rest of the population – millions upon millions of us – all wondering, "When is our turn in line?"
Right now, the answer to that question is, "Who knows?" And that is exceedingly frustrating, given the fact that the country is still suffering the effects of a second serious surge of the virus and more than 350,000 people have died from COVID-19.
According to the CDC's website on Jan. 5, about 15.4 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed nationwide, but just 4.5 million doses have been administered. Why are those vaccines gathering dust when people are waiting to be inoculated?
The CDC states that in Illinois, about 427,000 people have received vaccinations as of Jan. 5. That sounds like a lot until you realize Illinois has a population of about 12.7 million people. So, about 3 percent of the state's population has received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
At that rate, we are all going to waiting a very long time – and risking our health – before enough people are vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
For a nation that tells itself so often how exceptional it is, that's just not acceptable.
If the federal government will not bring its massive resources to bear – and right now that's the message being broadcast via Twitter by the White House -- then it will be up to states and counties to step up, and fast, to fill that void.
There need to be more creative solutions than just meting out vaccine distribution to pharmacy chains which are not staffed sufficiently to handle such a demand and provide the routine care they do now.
If the governor can deploy Illinois National Guard medical units to help with COVID testing, he can do the same with vaccine administration. County health officials can ramp up their efforts and enlist local first responders and private paramedic and EMS companies to assist.
It is absolutely urgent that state and county leaders find a solution to this problem of getting the vaccines rolled out. And, after Jan. 20, they should again demand that the federal government take responsibility for what ought to be a coherent, coordinated response to a national crisis.