COVID vaccine debate and fear mongering in Will County

By Rex Robinson | 9/16/2021, 6 a.m.
Will County is apparently not immune to the unfortunate politics of the COVID vaccine that has spread across the country ...

Will County is apparently not immune to the unfortunate politics of the COVID vaccine that has spread across the country like… well, a pandemic.

Data has shown that most who are now ending up in hospitals suffering from COVID are the unvaccinated and most large numbers of cases are in states with low percentage of vaccinated individuals.

Health experts are concerned the pandemic – a public health issue – has become political. Conspiracies and misinformation about the vaccines have spread like wildfire on the Internet.

The Will County Democratic Caucus late Tuesday afternoon issued a statement condemning “some members of the Republican caucus” and accusing them of spreading misinformation and fear-mongering statements.

“It’s important that, as leaders, we are committed to getting our facts straight before speaking publicly. Today in our meeting County Board members claimed that people would be fired at the County if they didn’t get vaccinated because of the federal vaccine mandate. They also posted that the Will County Health Department is going to mandate vaccines for all Will County residents,” said County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan (D-Naperville).

“Neither of these claims are true. The federal mandate provides for weekly testing for those who refuse to get vaccinated and there is no discussion about making vaccines mandatory for the general public at the county level. While I wish everyone would get vaccinated, spreading lies and misinformation is dangerous and irresponsible, especially as an elected official.”

Will County Board member Steve Balich (R-Homer Glen), told The Times Weekly he listened into the virtual committee meeting and said one of his Republican colleagues only “questioned” whether employees were told they would be fired if they did not get vaccinated. The question, according to Balich, was asked because an employee claimed they were told in a phone conversation that they would be fired if they did not get vaccinated.

Will County Board member Denise Winfrey (D-Joliet) asked if a memorandum had been circulated to employees telling them they would be fired if they did not get vaccinated, but no such memo existed.

Currently just shy of 375,000 people have been fully vaccinated in Will County, accounting for about 54 percent of the County’s total population. About 59 percent of the County’s 12 to 17-year-olds have been vaccinated; almost 69 percent of 18 to 64-year-olds have been vaccinated; and those 65-plus are over 90 percent vaccinated in Will County. In each metric, Will County is outperforming the vaccination level in the state of Illinois.

“I’ve had people ask me why they should get vaccinated if it doesn’t 100 percent protect you from COVID. I asked my doctor and public health officials to explain it to me and they said that the vaccine greatly reduces the chance you will get infected and even further reduces the chance you will become seriously ill, be hospitalized, or die,” said Majority Leader Meta Mueller. “The reality is, getting the vaccine is simply the best way to ensure our kids can stay in school and our business can remain open and our economy can remain functional, while also making sure as few people as possible suffer and die from COVID.” “Public health should not be governed by misinformation or political pandering,” said Caucus Member and Chair of the County Board’s Public Health and Safety Committee, Rachel Ventura. “If people have questions about the safety or efficacy of the vaccine, they can contact the Will County Health Department so that they have the best information to make the best choices to protect themselves and others.”

Nearly 27,000 people in Illinois have died from COVID-19 but only 337 people have died from COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, accounting for .005 percent of the fully vaccinated population. For more information about vaccine safety and how to get a vaccine, visit https://willcountyhealth.org/covid-19/covid-vaccine/ or call the Will County Health Department at (815) 727-8480. Rex Robinson, Assoc. Editor – rex@thetimesweekly.com