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Health, Science, Environment

People From Outside Illinois Took 80% Of Friday’s Vaccine Appointments In St. Clair County

A healthcare professional prepares COVID-19 vaccination for use at the St. Clair County mass vaccination center in Belleville. Illinois has ranked near the bottom of all 50 states in vaccines administered thus far, according to a New York Times database, leading some state lawmakers to call for increased transparency and a more effective process for allowing eligible residents to receive vaccines.
File Photo / Derik Holtmann
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Belleville News-Democrat
A healthcare professional prepares COVID-19 vaccination for use at the St. Clair County mass vaccination center in Belleville. County officials said 80% of vaccination appointments on Feb. 12 were made by people outside of St. Clair County.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Officials in St. Clair County say fewer COVID-19 vaccinations were administered Friday because of a volume of people who crossed state lines in an attempt to “cheat the system” and get their shots earlier ahead of their eligibility.

County Chairman Mark Kern said 80% of Friday’s scheduled appointments were made by individuals from other states as close as Missouri and as far away California and Michigan. All were turned away, some of them ineligible to receive the vaccine per Illinois vaccination rules.

“Someone figured out how to get through the system and make it hard for people who legitimately live here to get the vaccine,” Kern said. “A group of people really hurt the system by trying to cheat and get around the rules that exist.”

Kern and county emergency management agency director Herb Simmons said due to the breach in the system, which was caused when someone shared a private link, people used false information to schedule vaccine appointments.

At one point, Simmons said, a 12-year-old was brought to be vaccinated at the Belle Clair Fairgrounds. Children that age aren’t eligible in Illinois and it hasn’t been announced when they will be, per the state’s plan. He said entire families were showing up to be vaccinated Friday.

“Anytime someone who hasn’t followed the rule has to be turned away that slows the process down,” Simmons said. “Please be from St. Clair County and we will get you taken care of as quickly as possible.”

The county is currently only vaccinating health officials and people 65 years or older. People from outside the county or state will not be vaccinated, Kern said.

Kern said the falsely made appointments “clogged the system” wasted the National Guard manpower that has been allocated to the county’s mass vaccination site at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds.

“When you have 800 people signed up that don’t meet the qualifications — they’re underage and they’re from Missouri — when you get rid of those appointments now you have to fill those appointments or you’ll have too few vaccinations going out that day.”

He added that no vaccines were wasted Friday but more could have been administered. St. Clair County has currently vaccinated 1.88% of its population — or 4,902 people, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Kern said the county would “gladly” vaccinate St. Louis and Missouri residents if the state provided the vaccines. As it is, the state distributes vaccines to each based on their populations.

Simmons said officials at vaccination sites across the county are checking IDs to verify that those who have set up appointments are qualified to receive the vaccine. He said people who try to cheat the system won’t get a vaccine but will end up slowing down the process.

“We need people to be responsible,” Simmons said. “Be honest.”

Kavahn Mansouri is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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