Starting Thursday, the city of Chicago is expected to begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 12 to 15 at all city-operated sites. Cook County Health also plans to make its Pfizer mass vaccination sites available to children ages 12 and up beginning at 8 am on Thursday.
An advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to meet Wednesday and endorse the Pfizer vaccine for the youngest age group yet, opening the door for vaccinations to begin. The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of the vaccine on Monday.
The authorization expands the pool of eligible recipients to about 87% of the total U.S. population, covering an additional 17 million children, and comes at a time when people under age 18 account for one of every five newly reported coronavirus infections.
Chicago public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady urged parents and guardians to get vaccinated along with their teens and preteens. She heralded the results of the vaccine study for children ages 12 to 15.
“The news for the Pfizer vaccine for children looks really good,” Arwady said Tuesday. “There were actually no cases of COVID in the children who got the vaccine, and no serious side effects … I encourage all Chicagoans to really make sure you’re getting your kids vaccinated.”
While there is expected to be a rush of parents anxious to get their children vaccinated, there is still considerable hesitancy. In Kaiser Family Foundation survey and research data released last week, only about 30% of parents of children ages 12 to 15 said they would get their child vaccinated right away.
Another quarter said they would wait to see how the vaccine is working. The rest said they’d only do if it was required by school (18%) or they wouldn’t get their child vaccinated at all (23%)
“I think that’s a little bit shortsighted but I understand, it’s your kid. You don’t want to do anything to mess them up,” Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago, said on WBEZ’s Reset Tuesday in response to a question about the the Kaiser data.
“But the reality is that the only harm you can do is letting your kid get COVID-19 in this age group, especially the adolescent age group,” she said, noting that adolescents have a higher mortality rate and more ongoing problems after COVID compared to younger children.
Landon also noted the freedom to socialize that will come after being vaccinated, which is vital for teen and pre-teen development.
City appointments can be booked now through Zocdoc or by calling (312) 746-4835 but walk-ins will be accepted beginning Thursday. All minors under 18 must have a parent or guardian with them.
Sites vaccinating children 12 and older are: Wrigley Field, Chicago State University, the United Center, Daley and Wright colleges, Loretto Hospital and Apostolic Faith Church
Many private pharmacies are also expected to also offer the Pfizer vaccine for teens and preteens starting Thursday, Arwady said. Walgreen officials say they hope to be authorized to offer the vaccine to younger adolescents later this week. Walgreens officials say the Pfizer vaccine is available in 60% of their stores.
For Cook County, parents can register their children for updates. Once there is final CDC approval of the Pfizer vaccine appointments will be available beginning Thursday at a mass vaccination sites. Walk-ins are also welcome. Locations include: Tinley Park, Des Plaines, South Holland, River Grove, Cicero, Chicago Heights and Forest Park.
Chicago Public School officials say they will continue to encourage eligible students to get vaccinated, but they will not require vaccination for students unless state law mandates it. Helping get high school students vaccinated is part of the reopening deal between the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS settled last month.
The district says it’s working with city and union officials to connect families with vaccination opportunities. The district also says it is also planning to hold school-based vaccination events in the coming weeks.
The Illinois State Board of Education on Tuesday strongly encouraging all school districts to give students the chance to get vaccinated at one or more of their schools before the end of the academic year by partnering with a local health department, a pharmacy or hospitals.
Arwady said vaccinations will help with school next fall but will also keep kids safe this summer.
“The pools are going to be open. [Kids will be in] the camps, in the parks and the beaches,” Arwady said. “Children are going to be gathering. This is by far the safest way to help protect your kid and your family.”
Lurie Children’s Hospital officials say they hope to have the green light to administer the vaccine to the younger age group by the end of this week. For more updates on how to make an appointment, families can go here.
Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday also said the state is ready to begin vaccinating the state’s 12- to 15-year-olds, citing the state’s mass vaccination sites, local health department sites and mobile units. He also said the state has started supplying vaccines directly to doctors.
“We hope that 12- to 15-year-olds will, in the course of just getting a regular checkup, will be able to go in, in the next few weeks or over the summer to get that vaccination,” Pritzker said. “But we want everybody to get vaccinated who hasn’t been … and now that 12- to 15-year-olds are authorized we hope they’ll get to it right away.”