HIGHLAND PARK, IL — In a double reversal, Walgreens scrapped plans to vaccinate school staff at seven Lake County public school districts at special vaccination events — before announcing hours later the clinics were back on, superintendents said Friday.
Administrators announced earlier this week that the Deerfield-based pharmacy retailer had agreed to hold closed point of distribution, or POD, clinics, at Deerfield High School starting early next month.
Superintendents said they learned around 10 a.m. Friday that the Deerfield-based pharmacy retailer was pulling out of the plan, and encouraged staff to sign up for vaccines through the county health department instead.
Walgreens officials encouraged those eligible for the vaccine — front-line essential workers and those over age 65 — to make a general appointment on its website.
“We are in the early days of vaccinating members of the community and the initial supply of vaccines we are receiving remains very limited,” company representatives said in a statement.
“In an effort to allow for the greatest access to all eligible individuals across our locations in a fair and equitable manner, we are unable to proceed with the upcoming clinic with School Districts 106, 112, 113, 6, 187, 3, 126,” the statement continued.
Then, at 12:45 p.m., a Walgreens representative contacted superintendents to announce that the closed educator-only POD was back on.
“Our staff still has the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the Lake County Health Department’s AllVax program, and we expect that distribution to begin next week. We encourage them to keep up with AllVax as well,” Law said, announcing the plan was back on around 2 p.m. “Our goal is for as many school staff to be vaccinated as quickly as possible, wherever they are able to get their vaccines.”
The PODs will be restricted to interested employees of North Shore School District 112, Township High School District 113, Zion-Benton Township High School District 126, Beach Park Community Consolidated School District 3, Zion Elementary School District 6, Bannockburn School District 106 and North Chicago School District 187.
Those eligible may also sign up to receive doses through the Lake County Health Department’s AllVax portal. As of Wednesday, more than 300,000 people who live and work in the county have signed up through the portal — representing over 40 percent of its entire population, according to public health officials.
Lake County residents can use the state’s list of vaccination locations to seek an available appointment. Each independent local health department and corporate vaccination provider in Illinois offers their own vaccine registration and appointment system.
Walgreens had made no mention of halting its plan to provide on-site vaccinations to all staff of Deerfield School District 109, where administrators announced Jan. 21 that vaccines would begin this week.
Earlier this week, a District 113 board member said the arrangement with District 109 appeared to have been an “inside job.”
“This is obviously disappointing news for District 113 staff and our community as a whole,” said District 113 Superintendent Bruce Law after receiving news of the initial cancellation. He had earlier this week described the clinic as a “Valentine’s gift” for staff at the district.
Mike Lubelfeld, superintendent of District 112, initially said his staff would seek to get vaccinated through the AllVax portal or other venues.
“We were shocked that Walgreens unexpectedly had to cancel our plans and we received no warning about this change,” Lubelfeld said in a message to the school community. “We’re all suffering from Pandemic Fatigue, and we’re all on emotional rollercoasters.”
Lubelfeld said PODs run by the Lake County Health Department, rather than Walgreens, at Round Lake High School and Stevenson High School had also been in the works for months. They could be could begin as soon as next week, the superintendent said.
“We’re grateful that local pharmacies and health providers are able to support the public vaccination efforts in some places, and we’re grateful to the Lake County Health Department for supporting us throughout this pandemic,” he added.
District 112 plans to resume a hybrid of remote and in-person instruction Monday. The District 113 school board is set for a special meeting Monday to determine a target date for launching a hybrid option.