The Will County Health Department is bringing in more help to answer calls about the COVID-19 vaccine.
It has authorized a contract with Harris and Harris for a new COVID-19 call center.
“The Health Department has been overwhelmed fielding calls from residents seeking information about the vaccine,” said County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan (D-Naperville) in a press release. “The County Board has stepped in with extra funding to make sure residents get the information that they need and can get scheduled for a vaccination appointment.”
The department says it gets more than 800 calls a day on the subject.
The new call center will have 25 operators, five of whom will be bilingual in Spanish. Hours will be from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Funded by CARES Act
The contract is for six months, and will cost $1.6 million. It is being paid for with funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“We still have funds from the CARES Act that we can use to fund this call center,” said County Board Minority Leader Mike Fricilone (R-Homer Glen). “There is no question that this is an appropriate way to use these funds. Residents are relying on the Health Department for their vaccinations and the County Board has stepped up to fund this need.”
Handling Calls, Giving Reminders
Harris and Harris will be taking calls about the vaccine as well as following up to remind residents about appointments. They will also let them know when they’ll be able to schedule their second dose of the vaccine.
The call center will begin operations within the next two weeks.
Limited supply has been an ongoing issue in the attempts to get the vaccine out to the public. The health department says there are nearly 100,000 seniors in the county hoping to get the vaccine; however doses are only arriving in shipments of 2,000 incrementally. Though the call center can help with questions and some scheduling, being able to actually sign up for a vaccine is entirely dependent on supply.
“There is a shortage of vaccines in Illinois and nationally,” said County Board member and Public Health and Safety Committee Chair Rachel Ventura. “This makes it very challenging to schedule appointments because the Health Department doesn’t always know when their next shipment will be delivered, let alone how many doses will be included.”
“Please understand patience is needed as the supply currently does not meet the demand,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “We want to be fully staffed and ready to get as many shots in arms as possible when we receive larger shipments of the vaccine. It seems like a race against time. We want to protect as many of our residents as possible as quickly as we can.”
The County Executive’s office has been in contact with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Emergency Management Agency to ensure that once supply opens up, it can have mass vaccinations sites ready to go.
Residents can also register to be notified about vaccination appointment availability on the Will County Health Department website. They may also call the health department at (815) 740-8977.
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