MCESDA Disaster Digest2020-12-04T17:51:55+00:00

MCESDA Disaster Digest

The Hows and Whys of Vaccination Tiers

Last month in our post about vaccination planning, we briefly covered one aspect of vaccination planning, prioritization tiers.  Since then McDonough County has made so much progress in vaccination rollout that it’s worth another update!

What’s Changed?

IDPH has made several changes to Tier 1 since the initial rollout of the vaccine.  Tier 1 can be defined by two major categories: those who are high risk of serious complications from exposure to COVID-19, and those who serve in roles essential to societal function.  Overall, this definition of Tier 1 has not changed, however the prioritization order within this group had shuffled around quite a bit.

Image Description: Phases 1a, 1b, and 1c.

One of the biggest updates to the Tiers is that individuals over 65 are now in Tier 1b . This is sooner than previously anticipated, as this group was originally allocated to Phase 1c.   This also differs from the original CDC guidelines, which sets the recommended age for this tier at 75 and older instead.  Why would IDPH set the age 10 years younger than CDC guidelines?  In short, equity.  According to Illinois statistics, the average age of white individuals who die due to COVID-19 complications is 81.  Compare that to black and Hispanic Illinoisans, (72, 68, respectively), and one can see a major inequality emerging.  Setting the age of early vaccination to 65 instead of 75 is one way IDPH is helping to address racial disparity in health outcomes.

Essential Workers

Another major addition to Tier 1 is a more thorough breakdown of which essential workers are included in Tier 1b, including moving up some professions that were originally designated for Tier 2, such as transportation and K-12 teachers.  The full list of essential workers, in order that they will be eligible for vaccination, are as follows:

  • First Responders, including Law Enforcement, Firefighters not already covered by Tier 1a, and us here at ESDA!
  • Education, particularly K-12 school faculty and staff
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Manufacturing, including our local manufacturers such as Pella and
  • Corrections
  • United States Postal Service Workers
  • Public Transit Workers, such as Go West
  • Grocery Store Workers, including cashiers, stockers
  • Shelters including homeless shelters, women’s shelters and adult daycare

Once a group is substantially covered, the plan moves forward with the next group.  For example, as of posting this, a substantial amount of Tier 1a is covered, so our partners at McDonough District Hospital and McDonough County Health Department are setting up clinics for our First Responder community.  This methodical process helps create a procedure for getting limited supplies to those who need it the most.  Even when supplies become less limited, the tiers provide a solid strategy for getting the vaccine rolled out throughout the population.

What does it mean for me?

First, it means that regardless of your age or occupation, you have a place in line to get your COVID-19 vaccine.  Implementing this system avoids unfair “first come/first served” practices, and by the final tier everyone in the county will be covered.  A tiered system also helps with the logistical side of vaccination rollout.  For example, McESDA has been assisting with preparation of Tier 1b by gathering a census of essential workers and passing this data to our public health partners, who will in turn, use this data to estimate vaccine distribution and plan for clinics.  This way, waiting for a vaccine is less like waiting in a line, and more like a “fast pass” system, where you know you have a reservation later on in the process.

For further reading, we recommend the following pages:


CDC Phases:

McDonough County Health Department: (for the County’s current Phase)


By |January 15th, 2021|

Mitigation Tiers Explained

Last Wednesday Governor Pritzker announced that many Illinois regions will be able to move out of Tier 3 mitigations soon, as more counties are moving into the criteria of Tier 2.  Before that happens, it is important to familiarize yourself with what these tiers mean, and how they impact your day-to-day life.

By |January 8th, 2021|

Pfizer Pfacts

The Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine is now the first to be approved in the United States.  Initial batches of the vaccine are already being rolled out in New York where front line ICU nurses in Queens are receiving their first doses.

When a vaccine is approved in the United States, by law it must come with a fact sheet.  This fact sheet details all information a recipient of the vaccine would want to know.  Now that the Pfizer vaccine is federally approved, the fact sheet has been published and available to read.  Here at McDonough County ESDA we’ve had an opportunity to read through the fact sheet and want to share with you some of the most important tidbits.

Who should get the vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine has emergency use authorization (EUA) for anyone over the age of 16.  You will want to discuss with your healthcare provider first if you meet any of the following critieria:

  • have any allergies
  • have a fever
  • have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner
  • are immunocompromised or are on a medicine that affects your immune system
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
  • are breastfeeding
  • have received another COVID-19 vaccine

Who should NOT get the vaccine?

Anyone who is allergic to the ingredients of the vaccine or had an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine.  Known allergic reactions have occurred in individuals who are already epi-pen carriers for other severe reactions.

The Ingredients

Taken straight  from the vaccine fact sheet:

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine includes the following ingredients: mRNA,
lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2
[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-
phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium
phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.

How is the vaccine administered?

The vaccine is administered in the arm muscle and requires two doses 3 weeks apart.  You will receive a reminder card for the second dose at the time of the first dose.

What are the risks?

There are some known side effects, including:

  • injection site pain, swelling and redness
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • nausea
  • feeling unwell
  • swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)

The fact sheet also goes on to provide a variety of resources for anyone who experience rare but more severe allergic reactions to the vaccine, including phone numbers to receive more information or to report a problem.

All of this information, and more can be found at 

Stay safe, McDonough County!

-McESDA team

By |December 14th, 2020|

Vax in a Flash: How the COVID-19 Vaccine Developed so Fast

Never have we seen such rapid scientific progress as we have seen with the COVID-19 vaccine.  Some might say that it was developed in “warp speed“.  With this fast pace of development, you might be wondering how a vaccine could be developed this fast while still being safe.   Rest assured, the COVID-19 vaccines have to go through the same safety measures as any other vaccine.

Research and Development/ Pre-Clinical Phase

Laboratory testing on the pathogen (in this case the COVID-19 virus) narrow down possible vaccine candidates.  Once there is a scientific discovery that proves applicable, it will then be given to animal subjects. This is all done by the company or manufacturer producing the vaccine.

Clinical Trial Phases

This is the part where the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, first comes into play.  The FDA will evaluate the new vaccine for quality, safety, and production process.  They also will evaluate the laboratory practices of the drug company to ensure that the scientific findings from the previous stage were sound.  If the FDA approves, the vaccine will move onto clinical trials where it will be tested on voluntary human subjects.  These phases vary in size and makeup of the subject pool.

  • Phase 1: 20-100 healthy volunteers receive the vaccine.  You might remember this happening back in March 2020 when news stories came out about the first 45 volunteers receiving the Moderna vaccine.
  • Phase 2: Hundreds of volunteers of varying demographics and health statuses.  This randomization ensures that the vaccine can be used in a broader population.  It also contains a “control group”, which will receive a placebo for comparison.
  • Phase 3: Thousands of volunteers participate in the trials.  This phase emphasizes effectiveness of the vaccine and compares rates of the disease between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Emergency Use Authorization

Only after passing those previous phases can a drug manufacturer apply for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).  The EUA does not mean skipping any of the necessary safety trials, however it does mean that the FDA will review the data collected from the previous phases sooner than if it were a non-emergency.  The FDA will make a decision for EUA approval based on the final analysis of Phase 3’s results, plus discussions with the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.  The FDA has a great write-up on their EUA process here.

Ongoing Evaluation

If a vaccine gets approved for EUA through this process, the vaccine will still be closely monitored for safety standards.  Adverse effects such as hospitalizations will be reported and the FDA will continue to evaluate risk verses benefit.  Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), and the Biologics Effectiveness and Safety (BEST) Initiative are just some of the reporting systems in place for discovering safety issues post-approval.

Can the Vaccine Really be Produced That Fast AND Safe?

The leading American authority on drug safety, the FDA, says yes!  Currently, the FDA is reporting minimal to no side effects in the vast majority of vaccinated individuals.  Side effects that do occur are the mild reactions one might see in any other vaccine, such as day-of fatigue and soreness at the injection site.

In future posts we will uncover more about the science of mRNA and how scientists are using the latest in cytology to develop safe and innovate vaccine solutions.

Until next time, stay safe McDonough County!

-McESDA Team

By |December 11th, 2020|

COVID for the Holidays

Content originally shared through the CDC, which can be found here

Even Santa’s playing it safe this year

As the Holiday Season is approaching, here are a few ways you can reduce the risk of COVID-19.

  • Reduce exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
  • Reduce Indoor Gatherings – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
  • Shorten gatherings – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Limit the size of your gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear maskswash hands, and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
  • Safe behavior prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearinghandwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
  • Safe behavior during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearingsocial distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.

We hope this information helps keep you safe and festive this holiday season.  Happy Holidays!

-McESDA Team

By |December 10th, 2020|

Vaccine Planning, the TL;DR

As the world prepares for the COVID-19 vaccine, plans for vaccine clinics are happening right here in McDonough County!  Here’s some highlights from the latest IDPH vaccine plan.  While this sort of advanced planning can change rapidly (and may be even different by the time you read this!), we hope you’re as excited as we are for this next exciting step in ending COVID-19.

From Pfizer to Your Arm

The COVID-19 vaccine makes quite a journey before it reaches you.  For simplicity’s sake, we’ll go over the process for receiving the Pfizer vaccine, as this is the one that will likely roll out first.  Every part of the transportation process is being carefully planned to ensure that the vaccine remains safe and cold at a whopping -70° Celsius!  Here’s how it’ll go:

  • First, the Pfizer vaccine will be sent to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) in the freezers needed to keep them cold.  The SNS is a stockpile of vital medications and medical supplies kept in a secure location, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.  You can learn more about that over .
  • There, the vaccine will be inventoried and repackaged to be shipped out to regional centers.  Once ready, IEMA will ship the vaccines out in a secure vehicles, now warmer at ~2° Celsius.  At this point it’s important to get the vaccine to the regional center in a timely manner to prevent too much time at this higher temperature.  The maximum window is about 5 days from thawing to use.
  • Once the vaccine arrives at the regional center, McDonough County Health Department, will pick up their portion of the shipment along with ancillary supplies.  From there, the Health Department will plan how the doses will be distributed to the community.

Who Can Get the Vaccine?

In the long term, everyone who can!  However, a part of the planning process is deciding how to best distribute the vaccine in a way that is logical and equitable.  To facilitate this process, public health experts have created a tiered system that organizes the vaccine allotment by target population.

  • Tier 1a – Healthcare workers and residents of congregate care facilities.  These populations have been hit the hardest and will receive early batches of the vaccine.
  • Tier 1b- Essential Frontline Workers, including First Responders
  • Tier 1c- Individuals with high risk comorbidities and/or those over 65
  • Tier 2- Those with moderate risk due to comorbidities and workers in important industries, ex. teachers and transportation.
  • Tier 3- Young adults 18-30, who may not have high risk for complications but are at high risk for contracting and spreading the virus.  If a pediatric vaccine comes out, children under 18 will also fall in this category.
  • Reaching Tier 4, everyone not yet covered by a previous tier should now get the vaccine

These tiers can change as additional information and research shows a need to prioritize various groups, but the general gist is vaccinating those at high risk for exposure and complications first.


A lot of planning and coordination has gone into getting the vaccine from the manufacturer to the local level.  McDonough County is doing everything it can to make sure the community is ready for the COVID-19 vaccine, and ready to fight this pandemic off one shot at a time.

Stay safe, McDonough County

-McESDA Team

By |December 8th, 2020|
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