New Trier High School has a plan in place if the Cook County Department of Public Health is interested in utilizing its facilities to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.
Tim Hayes, assistant superintendent for student services, informed the board of education during its Monday, Dec. 14 meeting that the district has communicated with the Cook County Department of Public Health on those plans.
The county’s plan is to distribute the vaccine through physicians, health services, pharmacies and then a small amount of local health departments; no other sites are currently part of the plan, Hayes said at the meeting.
While the public health department has not yet signaled interest in using New Trier, officials have a plan just in case.
“It’s unclear yet whether or not they are going to want us to serve as a vaccination center,” he said. “If they do, it probably wouldn’t be until closer to the spring or summer and we might not be called on to do that at all, but we are keeping a close eye on it and making sure that if we are called upon we would be ready to do the vaccine.”
Hayes told The Record the plan officials drew up would use the district’s Northfield campus main gymnasium as the location. He said the plan was first created after the H1N1 crisis in 2009.
“We have a plan but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Cook County Department of Public Health will ask us to enact the plan,” he said. “But we do have a draft plan for how we would do that.”
The plan was developed preemptively, Hayes said, adding that it was done in conjunction with the local fire and police departments in the township.
“We just worked together with what we might do if we were in that situation,” he said.
New Trier’s plan would offer the Cook County Department of Public Health efficient distribution of a vaccine to a large number of people, but because the vaccine is now only available in limited quantities, any interest from the county is still months away.
New Trier’s plan would cost the district almost nothing if it were to be used, Hayes said, adding that the district’s contribution would be the use of its space and the facilities.
The Pfizer vaccine, the current vaccine that has emergency approval from the FDA, requires ultra-low temperature storage, so New Trier would need to rely on some other entity to store this vaccine for it if it were asked to distribute it in any capacity, Hayes said.
The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered Monday, Dec. 14, in New York. On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the first local dose was given to a doctor at Loretto Hospital in Chicago.
But the Moderna vaccine, which is also reportedly nearing emergency approval from the FDA, can be stored in a normal freezer.
“We’re still talking with (the health department) about that,” Hayes said at the Dec. 14 meeting. “We reached out to them (Dec. 14) to just talk some more about this and I think the plan is still evolving and as we do I will come back to the board and give an update.”
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.