Palatine grade school
students and faculty soon will be the only members of the general
public in suburban Cook County who can get the vaccine against the H1N1
Is that fair?
Some parents and policy makers are starting to wonder.
These include Greg Cox, whose wife and 10-year-old son
have asthma, a condition that puts them at higher risk of complications
from the flu and prevents them from getting the live virus nasal spray.
Cox, an engineer who lives in Schaumburg, tried to get
the vaccine from three family doctors and his son's pediatric
pulmonologist, but none had it. He tried Cook County, the governor and
his state representative, but none could help.
He's concerned that Chicago and other nearby counties
have scheduled or begun general vaccination clinics, but not suburban
Cook County. Palatine Township Elementary District 15 students, private
schools students in that area, and high-risk school staff members can
get vaccinated beginning Thursday.
"It's kind of surreal," Cox said, "because everybody is
vaccinating their own residents except us. You sit here and wonder,
when are we going to get any? Especially for high priority cases."
Federal guidelines say the vaccines should go to those
most at risk of flu complications: pregnant women, those who live or
take care of children under 6 months old, health care and emergency
medical responders, those age 6 months to 24 years, and people age 25
to 64 with underlying medical conditions.
When the Cook County Health Department planned the
vaccinations in Palatine schools, officials anticipated having enough
vaccine to also start vaccinations for the public, said Sean McDermott.
But a delay in the manufacture of the vaccine has
caused nationwide shortages. The county had to first help supply
vaccines to health care workers at suburban hospitals, including
Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village and Northwest
Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.
The county health department decided on Palatine
schools after looking at ZIP codes and finding that Palatine's 60067
and 60074 have "one of the largest numbers of school-age children in
the suburban area of the county," McDermott said.
Health department staff members also realized from
providing services in the area that many families are uninsured or
under insured, he said, and there is a significant rate of poverty.
"With those three factors Palatine rose to the top,"
said McDermott. "The primary factor is population. They have a lot of
young people. We can deliver the vaccine in an effective and efficient
manner and cover a lot of people at one time."
The department intends to hold public clinics around the county when it gets more vaccine, possibly as early as next week.
"There's a great deal of frustration in the general
public, and we share that frustration," he said. "It's a national
problem. It's a very complex process to manufacture the vaccine."
County board member Tim Schneider of Bartlett was
concerned the Palatine school vaccinations don't include many of those
in the priority groups, such as pregnant women and those with medical
He also said that because Chicago already has received
150,000 doses and Cook County only 20,000, the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention should adjust its allocation.
"We're getting out of the gate far too late on this,"
he said. "We need to get this out as quickly as possible to the people
who are in danger of becoming seriously ill."
The Illinois Department of Public Health is
coordinating distribution to 95 counties, 150 hospitals and 4,500
private providers such as doctors and pharmacies as quickly as
possible, spokeswoman Kelly Jakubek said.
State Health Director Damon Arnold urged people to be patient and let high-priority patients go first.
By mid-November and December, he said, "There will be enough vaccine for everyone."
• Daily Herald Staff Reporter Deborah Donovan contributed to this report.