CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA)– There have been two totally different tales when you look at vaccinations in Central Illinois’ largest counties lately.
Over the summer, Champaign, Sangamon and Macon Counties have fully vaccinated about 33% more people than Vermilion County.
Target 3 has been tracking all counties in our area for a couple of months now, since the state fully reopened on June 11.
Sangamon and Champaign Counties are far ahead with a little more than half of the population inoculated.
Macon County is close behind. There, 42% of the population has their shots.
However, Vermilion County is trailing with one of the worst rates in our area.
“It’s way lower than we’d like it to be,” Vermilion County Public Health Administrator Doug Toole commented.
Vermilion County started out strong, according to Toole.
“We dealt with a lot of people who were very interested in getting the vaccine,” he said, referring to the Vermilion County Health Department. “They were calling seven days a week, all kinds of hours.”
It’s not that the shots weren’t available. Toole said there were clinics even in rural parts of the county, but by April or May, the health department had to scale them back because of the lack of interest.
“Very frustrating,” Toole added. “We thought those days were going to last.”
The Vermilion County Public Health Department holds clinics once a month now because it was “running clinics where [they] were barely doing a person or two an hour,” according to Toole.
This summer, the county vaccinated about 2.3% of the population per month. On June 11, 29.4% of Vermilion County residents were fully vaccinated. As of Wednesday, 34.2% have their shots.
In Sangamon County, it’s a totally different story. The county with Illinois’ state capital jumped from 45.4% on June 11 to 52.5% Wednesday.
“We were hoping for 70 or 80%, which may have been very unrealistic,” said Gail O’Neill, the Public Health Director at the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.
A few northern Illinois counties have a higher vaccination rate. DuPage County is an outlier with 62.7% of the population vaccinated as of Wednesday.
All of the counties in our region still fall behind the state’s vaccination rate of 52.7%, Sangamon County by less than a percent.
Vaccinations are available six days a week at the Sangamon County Department of Public Health. That’s down from seven, according to O’Neill.
“Right now we’re seeing an increase, so we’re ramping back up,” she added.
Toole is still hoping for improvement, but he said in Vermilion County, this is par for the course.
“This is a community that, for years, has been slow to embrace a lot of preventative health,” he explained.
The county has more people living with chronic conditions than neighboring counties, according to Toole, and they have to visit emergency rooms more often than their neighbors.
“I had hoped that, during a pandemic, this would be a community that would embrace more preventative health,” Toole said. “Unfortunately, this is very on-brand for them.”
Two counties out of the 19 in our viewing area have lower vaccination rates than Vermilion County, Moultrie County with 33.8% and Shelby County brings up the rear with 31.2%.