Evanston first responders receive COVID-19 vaccine; city prepares for next distribution phase

Approximately+70+Evanston+fire+department+members+and+paramedics+were+given+first+doses+of+the+Moderna+vaccine+Dec.+31.

Daily file illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

Approximately 70 Evanston fire department members and paramedics were given first doses of the Moderna vaccine Dec. 31.

Andrew Myers, Reporter

Within a month of the approval of  COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, Evanston first responders have been rolling up their sleeves to receive their first round of shots. 

In compliance with Illinois’ vaccination protocol, Evanston is currently vaccinating residents who fit Phase 1A criteria, which includes healthcare workers and long-term care providers. Evanston has distributed about 5,000 doses as of Jan. 11, according to a city news release.

Approximately 70 members of the Evanston Fire Department and paramedic teams received the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 31.

“On a local lens, my experience (with the vaccine rollout) has been smooth,” EFD division chief of emergency management Kimberly Kull said. 

Kull has been managing Evanston’s Emergency Operations Center since it opened in mid-March to help coordinate the city’s response to COVID-19.

Working with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Kull has been involved in seeing the vaccines move from the state government into the arms of Evanston first responders. Once vaccines arrive in Illinois they are repackaged to accommodate the needs for each municipality, according to Kull. The state fills orders after confirming municipalities are prepared to receive their allocated quantity of vaccine doses.

Kull said she expects the city could be ready to transition to Phase 1B by next week, when it will begin inoculating people over the age of 64, as well as essential frontline workers outside the healthcare sector.

Evanston last week released a survey to gauge vaccine demand, and Illinois recently announced local health departments could move to the next phase of vaccination after substantial completion of the first phase.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she felt the city was making “good progress” in administering its initial doses.

“I think we are fortunate we have our own public health department, and it has been working really hard to make sure we have a good plan for conducting the vaccination program,” Revelle said.

Kull said she has been working closely with the city’s health department through the Emergency Operations Center and she expects the Evanston Fire Department to be closely involved with vaccinating the rest of the city throughout the year.

In a news release, Mayor Steve Hagerty said he is confident in the city’s ability to quickly inoculate residents. He pointed to the vaccination program Evanston administered to combat the H1N1 pandemic as precedent for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

As one of only four state-certified municipal health departments in Illinois, Evanston City staff and volunteers have been planning, training and preparing for mass vaccination events and public health crises long before ‘Covid’ ever entered our vocabularies,” Hagerty wrote. 

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