At Memorial Health, we are extremely grateful for the amazing level of collaboration that has existed between our organization and the Union County Health Department (UCHD). For decades, we have enjoyed a relationship built on mutual respect and cooperation, both focused on ways we can individually and jointly serve the needs of our community. In some parts of the state and nation, local health departments and hospital systems are not great friends and it benefits residents greatly that Memorial and the UCHD are in lock step. Perhaps at no other time in recent history has that collaboration been more important and effective than now, in the midst of a pandemic. And even more so in this time of mass vaccination planning.
In late December, Memorial Health received doses of the COVID vaccine to initiate the state’s vaccine program. We vaccinated those who are part of the team that provides care to COVID patients, as well as those that keep the hospital operating, so that we can continue to provide care to all patients. The state is now planning to proceed to the 1B group.
As guidelines for this rollout arrived, Memorial engaged our Health Department leaders in numerous brainstorming conversations to determine the most effective and efficient way to deliver the vaccine to as many Union County residents as possible. The current vaccines in use require special storage and handling, and the instructions from the state require distribution on a very condensed timeline. The Health Department has a well-organized process that is used each year for flu vaccinations and has been stood up historically for other mass vaccination efforts. Because of this, the decision was made for Memorial to forego the opportunity of being a registered vaccine provider for the community so that a larger portion of the limited number of vaccine doses allocated to Union County will go to the Health Department. We believe shifting resources to our community health partners that would have been made available to us is the most effective way of getting the vaccine in the arms of the 1B group. In doing so we will be assisting them in reaching as many as possible, as quickly as possible.
The Union County Health Department already has a large vaccination team assembled, and many of these staff and volunteers are retired clinical team members of Memorial. In addition, we have made it clear that if the UCHD needs additional hands to work the drive-thru vaccination clinics, all it takes is a call.
Memorial physician practices located in Union, Madison and Champaign counties are committed to delivering vaccine to its patients in our offices once it becomes more widely available in that setting. Until that time, we encourage everyone in our community to follow the Union County Health Department for announcements regarding their vaccination program.