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BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Hundreds of people showed up Monday at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds for the first mass COVID vaccination site in St. Clair County. Those receiving the shots didn’t have to get out of their cars. County officials say it’s the largest drive-thru vaccination site in Illinois. More than 550 people had appointments to get their shots.

“This is a good day in St. Clair County,” said Herb Simmons, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency. “A day we’ve been waiting for a long time it seems like.”

During this phase, only people 75 years and older are eligible for a vaccine.

“It’s very important. It really was and it went so smoothly, I hardly even felt it when he put the needle in,” said Belleville resident Jack Genetti.

Genetti is encouraging everyone to get the vaccination shot.

“I’d tell them not to put it off too long. Do it as soon as you can,” he said.

A quick and simple process, taking just minutes. Fairview Heights resident Roselle Deffler said she was prepared to wait longer.

“Seemed like minutes. We had all kinds of supplies here ready to eat; didn’t have to use them,” Deffler said.

Illinois National Guard troops assisted getting the cars through the lines. Nurses were administered the shots at 15 stations. The site is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The county is expecting vaccine deliveries every week.

“They’re ringing the phones saying we got the site, we just need the product in. That’s why we were able to open up today,” Simmons said. “Some places are scheduled later on this week, but we got on this right away and as long as the vaccine keeps coming, we’ll keep putting the needles in arms.”

After the vaccine is given, each person is monitored for 15 minutes to make sure they don’t have a negative side effect. Again, during this phase, only those 75 and older are eligible to receive the shots. They must make an appointment on the St. Clair County Health Department website. They can also make an appointment to get a shuttle bus to take them to and from the site.