Illinois leaders work with pediatricians to outline COVID-19 vaccine plan for kids 5-11

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 9:35 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 12:05 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Gray TV) - Approval of COVID-19 vaccines for young children could be just days away. Now, the Pritzker administration wants to help parents prepare to get their 5 to 11-year-olds vaccinated.

Gov. JB Pritzker says approval could help 1.1 million eligible children in Illinois get vaccinated. More than 2,200 locations and providers have already signed up to provide the vaccine to children. That includes more than 700 pediatric and family medicine offices and over 700 pharmacies.

Local health departments, hospitals, and urgent care centers have also enrolled to help with this plan.

Illinois leaders expect to receive 306,000 doses for pediatricians, hospitals, and other clinics. Over 100,000 doses will go to pharmacy partners in Illinois and 73,000 additional doses will head to Chicago.

Kids could be fully vaccinated before Christmas

Pritzker says IDPH has contacted every pediatrician across the state to enroll them in the vaccine program.

“The Pfizer vaccine, likely to be the first one approved, requires two doses three weeks apart. That means you have the opportunity to get your kids fully vaccinated before Christmas,” Pritzker said. “So don’t wait.”

The administration is already working with school leaders to make sure shots will be available for elementary-age students. Pritzker said IDPH is contacting the 756 school districts to offer parent-approved vaccine clinics on school property.

The governor also said he knows that many parents aren’t ready to have their kids vaccinated. Pritzker said medical experts could help answer any of their questions.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike urged every single parent or guardian to do this for their child.

“Unfortunately, we have lost some young people to this virus,” Ezike said. “And some young people have been hospitalized, definitely not many. But any is too much when there is a vaccine that can prevent that illness, that severe illness and hospitalization, or worse.”

Listen to doctors: Vaccines are safe

Ezike also believes the number of new cases and hospitalizations will continue to drop with younger children vaccinated. Other pediatricians said vaccines are the most powerful resource in the fight against COVID-19.

“The common perception is that COVID-19 is not a serious illness to them,” said Dr. Jihad Shoshara. “However, over the past year and a half, I have seen up close the havoc that this scourge causes to my patients and their families. One child with a case of COVID-19, at a minimum, leads to the quarantine and isolation of all young children in a family, causing parents to miss work and potentially contract the illness amongst themselves.”

Dr. Shoshara also said he saw COVID-19 rip through households with unvaccinated people and those with pre-existing conditions. He stressed that some of his patients lost their grandparents and parents. Some of those patients became seriously ill themselves.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michelle Barnes said children currently account for 25% of COVID-19 cases throughout the country. She said children continue to end up in the hospital due to COVID-19. Barnes also noted experts predict 10-15% of children diagnosed with COVID-19 could experience long COVID symptoms, lasting longer than five weeks.

“We want you to know that vaccines are safe,” Barnes said. “Vaccines do their job. The COVID-19 vaccine will teach your child’s immune system how to recognize and fight COVID-19. People who are vaccinated also help to protect those who cannot be vaccinated such as newborn babies and very young children.”

Barnes said health care providers are more than happy to help parents with the important decision.

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