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Health leaders thinking of new ways to right the ship as vaccine challenges continue

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(WEEK) --- Public health leaders say they are in limbo as cases continue to rise along with the number of unused vaccines.

Public Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson acknowledged Thursday the Peoria City/County Health Department is facing a new challenge - as vaccine interest isn't where it should be.

She says some people are skipping out on their vaccine appointments which leads to the risk of wasted doses.

"It's getting more and more difficult. The first dose-saver list that we had active for a while, that's been cleared out," Hendrickson said. "Everyone who has been on that last has received it. If we've added a name, we've only added about one or two in the past week."

Hendrickson says the struggle to vaccinate younger groups is still a big issue.

But a new drive-thru clinic at the Tremont Campus in Tazewell County is open to anyone 16 or older with no appointment necessary - which has public health leaders hopeful for a turnaround.

"Each day, we have allotted 500 doses. So far this morning, in about 2 hours, we gave away 60 - so we're encouraged by that," said Sara Sparkman, communications manager for the Tazewell County Health Department. "We want people to make sure we are here - open from 8:30 to 5:30 - Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next month."

Experts say for now, the best tool for delivering more vaccines is clearing up any myths and building a stronger sense of trust in local communities.

"Individuals really trust information from groups that they have. If you've received your vaccine - share it. Talk to individuals about why you got vaccinated, what effects you had - even if it was a sore arm," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson adds if data continues to trend in the wrong direction, we could be headed toward harsher mitigations.

But the state health department will ultimately make that call.

Harry Croton

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