At IDHS, we work every day to put the health, safety, and well-being of our staff, clients, and patients at the forefront of all we do. Today, I write to share some important information that will contribute to your health and to that of our entire State. Across the world, news is cycling regarding vaccine approvals for COVID-19 and, as you may have seen or heard, both a Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have been approved. An effective, safe, and easily accessible vaccine is an undeniable necessity in the fight against COVID-19.
You have been essential throughout this crisis and because of this, we strongly encourage you to consider vaccination. Getting vaccinated will afford you a critical layer of protection against the virus. Protecting you also helps protect your family and friends, especially those who may be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Front-line health care workers and long-term care residents are the first groups prioritized for the vaccine, with employee vaccinations already starting at many Illinois hospitals this week. We are pleased to share that the hard-working staff at our 24/7 facilities are amongst those prioritized front-line health care workers. Additional IDHS staff will progressively be included in future phases of this national vaccination effort. Leadership at our 24/7 facilities and across IDHS have been working rapidly to plan for vaccination of our staff and we will be sharing more information with you about the operational roll out in the coming days and weeks.
Here are initial steps that are being executed already:
- We have established a COVID-19 Vaccine Work Group. The group is composed of IDHS leaders representing infection prevention, quality and patient safety, pharmacy, employee health, human resources, among other specialties. This group is helping to shape IDHS's efforts on distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Our 24/7 State Operated Facilities have developed operational plans for Phase 1 distribution of the vaccine through our internal operations and through an external partnership with the CDC and Walgreens.
- We are convening regularly with IDPH to understand the CDC's vaccine allocation and prioritization process and to ensure that IDHS facilities have established relationships for distribution.
- We are briefing and seeking input from local labor leaders, supervisors, and front-line staff.
- We are briefing community partners, stakeholders, and others on plans for distribution of the vaccine to community partners throughout the state.
- We are working with the Governor's Office, IDPH, and our internal team to develop a strategy for communicating about the vaccine and encouraging our staff across IDHS to get vaccinated.
Here's what you should anticipate in the coming weeks:
- If you work for our 24/7 facilities, you will be receiving information regarding when you will have the opportunity to be vaccinated and what you will need to submit to consent for the vaccine.
- We have created a COVID-19 Vaccination Information page for your reference.
- We are working to activate a text campaign to keep you informed with information you need.
- Please send questions to DHS.COVID19@illinois.gov.
We will continue to communicate next steps as these plans evolve.
The opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccination marks a critical turning point in this pandemic. By vaccinating, you can bring us a step closer to resuming the activities we all cherish, protecting our family and friends, protecting our colleagues, and protecting those we serve. Finally, please remember to avoid gatherings, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and maintain distances of 6 feet or more whenever possible. Be well and take good care.
Grace B. Hou