During a Feb. 1 virtual presentation to the Zionsville Town Council, Tom Santelli, the president of the Board of Boone County Commissioners, said Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron had not responded to his requests to coordinate the creation a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Zionsville, causing council members to question why she had not.
Styron defended her position on social media.
Santelli said the Boone County Health Dept. was in talks to establish vaccination clinics at the Lebanon Public Library, Lebanon City Hall and Traders Point Christian Church in Whitestown. A clinic already operates at the Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds.
The proposed sites would, along with Witham Health Services’ vaccination site, create four vaccination sites in Lebanon and one in Whitestown. Two Kroger stores in Zionsville and the Meijer store in Whitestown are administering vaccines but on a much more limited basis.
When asked why county officials had not established a vaccination clinic in Zionsville, Santelli said his repeated attempts to contact Styron went unanswered or were redirected.
“I got incredible responses from everybody, except for Emily,” Santelli said. “Emily didn’t respond to my voicemail, and four days later, when I sent an email to her, she came back and said, ‘(James) Van Gorder, I’ve got him working on other things; work with Josh (Westrich) in Whitestown.’ And I do not get that. I honestly don’t understand that. Josh responded instantaneously, and for some reason, it doesn’t seem to be a priority.”
Styron responded the next day in a statement from the mayor’s office on a Facebook post.
“Last month I responded to an email from Tom Santelli within 1-1/2 hours of inquiry with a point of contact for Zionsville’s vaccination location effort and named our EMS Director, Kerry O’Haver, along with a referral to the Unified Command to follow the chain of command as a responsible community partner specifically to Fire Chief Josh Westrich,” the statement read. “I never stated that we were uninterested in hosting a vaccination site, should the need arise.
“In December, the Zionsville Fire Department outlined a meeting that was held with State officials to discuss the possibilities of providing testing and vaccination sites in Zionsville. In mid-November, Andrew Forrester from the Governor’s office reached out to the Mayor’s office to see if we had any additional testing locations in Zionsville. In response, the Deputy Mayor reached out to the Fire Department to explore various empty sites in Zionsville. Tom Ryan in the BCHD deferred to the Unified Command to assess all available options. Ultimately CVS and Walgreens were included as potential distribution sites for both testing and vaccination.”
To read Styron’s full statement, visit zionsville-in.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=385.
Santelli said identifying potential vaccination sites, securing volunteers to staff them and creating plans to show the sites could be quickly established were vital to securing more vaccine doses. He and Heather Willey, the town council’s legal councel and an attorney at Barnes & Thornburg, said they were of the understanding, through ongoing talks with state health officials, that counties that have clear plans to administer more vaccinations through additional clinics would be considered for more COVID-19 doses.
“While there isn’t an exact science, (allocations are) based on the number of vaccines coming into the state,” Willey said. “I think the point is, if you are ready and you show that you have people able to vaccinate, and you have clinics stood up, and you are able to get shots in arms, the state is more likely to push additional vaccines to those counties with those additional locations than to places where they can’t get shots in arms.
“The biggest goal is just to rapidly deploy this. So, they’re really looking at capacity (for) making the allocation for each week.”
In a response to whether additional COVID-19 vaccine clinics would mean additional dose allotments for counties, a representative from the Indiana State Dept. of Health stated the following in an email:
“Vaccine allocations are set by the federal government. Indiana requests the maximum vaccine allocated to our state each week; the doses are allocated to clinics across the state based on population and clinic capacity. The limited national supply of vaccine is the reason we have taken a deliberate, age-based approach to vaccine eligibility. All plans for vaccination clinics are dependent on the availability of vaccine and other logistical needs.”
“If we have an opportunity to get additional vaccines through the state, those need a rapid, well-prepared response,” Santelli said during the council’s Feb. 1 meeting. “I’ve gotten a good response from Whitestown and from Lebanon. I got an email from one of our constituents (recently), and his concern was, ‘How come we’re not doing anything in Zionsville? Why do I have to go to St. Vincent’s?’ And why can’t we focus on doing a better job in our community?’”
In her statement, Styron said opening additional vaccination clinics in the county would not guarantee an additional allotment of doses.
“This week, Lisa Younts, Executive Director of the BCHD, confirmed with the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) that opening additional vaccination sites would not increase the weekly allocation of vaccines the County receives,” Styron’s statement reads. “While that may change in the future, as of now BCHD receives 1300 vaccination shots per week which is not enough to fully operate the current vaccination site at the Fairgrounds. In other words, if the ISDH allocates more vaccination shots to BCHD, there is still capacity to deploy these vaccinations at the Fairground location which is fully staffed and operational … (if) the weekly doses allocated to Boone County increases beyond the capacity of the Fairground location, then Zionsville may launch an additional vaccination site.”
Zionsville Town Council President Josh Garrett directed Willey to coordinate with the county commissioners’ legal counsel Bob Clutter, Styron, the BCHD and other officials to see what options are available to the town for establishing a vaccination site.
“I think just making sure we have one or multiple sites for our citizens here in Zionsville, I can’t think of a more important thing going on in town government than that,” Garrett said.