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Illinois' newest top health official makes first stop in the Metro East

"As the director of the entire state, it's been one of my goals to visit as many public health departments as possible."

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill — Dr. Sameer Vohra became the director of Illinois' Department of Public Health in August.

He paid his first visit to the East Side Health District in East St. Louis Friday.

His biggest message? Get the latest COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot. 

"As the director of the entire state, it's been one of my goals to visit as many public health departments as possible," he said 5 On Your Side.

The clinic's supervisor of nursing, Angela Clark is proud of the recognition.

"We're small in number but mighty in force," Clark says. She knows it takes a village to get their message out. 

Dr. Vohra is trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the flu.

Right now, the CDC reports about 4% of people eligible for a shot have received the COVID booster.

The data does not include people who received updated Pfizer-BioNTech boosters in Idaho and Texas, so it is likely an underestimate, the CDC says. 

Dr. Vohra understands the fatigue.

"I know all of us don't want to think about COVID," he said.

A struggle Clark's department faces too.

"More of our older generation is getting [vaccinated]," Clark said. "It's the younger generation that we have to capture. Reaching that younger community and letting them know it starts with you."

However, the US has still seen an uptick in demand. 

According to NBC News, the U.S. is currently administering around 356,000 COVID vaccine doses per day, as a weekly average. That's more than triple the number from the start of the month.

In the Land of Lincoln, the Illinois health department says, daily vaccination numbers are at the highest level seen since early February with the Omicron surge.

Since the Metro East is not at high risk right now, Dr. Vohra is pushing for prevention.

"When winter season comes back in, we're going back indoors and we know that the time for respiratory viruses like COVID to spread. This is the best time to get the bivalent booster," Dr. Vohra said. 

So much so, Dr. Vohra rolled up his own sleeve along with State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea). 

"In that 10-15 minutes, you can get very protected for two diseases that can cause bad sicknesses," he said.

The CDC recommends everyone over the age of 12 get an updated booster, as long as two months have passed since their last COVID shot.

People who recently got COVID should wait at least until their acute illness is over.

The East St. Louis Health District has walk-ins for vaccines from 8-11:30 or 1-3:30 during the week. 

Starting this Tuesday, flu vaccines will be available. 

It's located at 638 North 20th Street, East St Louis, IL 62205.

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