The Perfect Enemy | COVID vaccination rate among kids under 5 is 5.3% in Illinoiis
August 17, 2022

COVID vaccination rate among kids under 5 is 5.3% in Illinoiis

COVID vaccination rate among kids under 5 is 5.3% in Illinoiis  Chicago TribuneView Full Coverage on Google News

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Only about 5.3% of Illinois children under 5 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine nearly a month after little kids first became eligible for the shots — a number that worries local pediatric leaders.

“We are deeply concerned about the low rates of COVID-19 vaccinations in children across the country,” said Dr. Sharon Robinson, a pediatrician at NorthShore University HealthSystem, at a news conference Wednesday. “We know that vaccination not only protects the individuals receiving it but also our community at large.”

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In the city of Chicago, the percentage of children under 5 who’ve received a shot is slightly higher at 6.4%, which only includes children who physically received the vaccines within the city, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

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Though most children don’t get seriously ill from COVID-19, some require hospitalization, doctors from NorthShore, Advocate Children’s Hospital and the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, which work together as the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance, said at a news conference Wednesday. Advocate and Comer each have a few children hospitalized with COVID-19 now, doctors said.

Doctors still don’t fully understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 in children, said Dr. Michael Cappello, vice chairman of pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge.

Some children also develop long COVID-19 symptoms. And some can develop a rare but severe illness linked to COVID-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.

“Approval of COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 was a huge step toward protecting children and their families from COVID-19 and its long-term effects, but unfortunately, we are not seeing the response to the vaccine we had hoped among the parents of children,” Cappello said. “Many families are hesitant to get their young child vaccinated.”

Some families are shying away from the vaccines because they worry about their safety or side effects. Others don’t think their children need it because children don’t usually get severely ill from COVID-19, Robinson said.

Robinson, however, emphasized Wednesday that the vaccines are safe, and that when children experience side effects, they’re typically mild, such as soreness or low-grade fevers. It’s also safe for children to get COVID-19 vaccines alongside their other, normal childhood vaccinations, she said.

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Difficulty finding shots may also be stymieing some families.

COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for young children on June 18, and within a week many pharmacies and health systems were offering them to young kids.

But some parents who were eager to get their babies and toddlers vaccinated right away found it tough to get the shots because Illinois pharmacies aren’t allowed to vaccinate children under 3, and some pediatricians’ offices have been slow to roll out the vaccines to their patients.

Advocate and Comer are administering the vaccines in their pediatricians’ offices. NorthShore has been offering them to young kids at regional vaccination clinics, but is still working to get them into their pediatricians’ offices, Robinson said.

NorthShore expects to begin offering the vaccines to young kids in its pediatricians’ offices in the next week or so — a delay that Robinson blamed on logistical issues.

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The city health department has been holding family vaccination clinics at City Colleges of Chicago and has also been working with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois to hold vaccination clinics, among other events. A number of county health departments have been vaccinating young children as well.

Two vaccines are available to young children, including a Pfizer vaccine, which has been authorized for children ages 6 months through 4 years old, and a Moderna vaccine authorized for kids ages 6 months through 5 years old. The Pfizer vaccine consists of three doses given over the course of about 11 weeks, with each dose about one-tenth of an adult dose. The Moderna vaccine is two doses, given about four weeks apart. Each shot of Moderna is about one-fourth of an adult dose.

“There’s no time to waste if we want our children to be protected by the start of the school year,” said Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Comer.

The low vaccination rate among young children follows relatively low rates among older kids as well.

In Chicago, about 48% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, despite the fact that vaccines have been available to that age group since late 2021. Statewide, about 37.5% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Older age groups are more highly vaccinated, with about 63% of kids ages 12 to 17 fully vaccinated statewide.

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With an omicron subvariant now making up the majority of cases in the U.S., the city of Chicago and Cook, Lake, DuPage and Will counties are considered to be at “high” community levels of COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on hospital beds being used, hospital admissions and their numbers of new COVID-19 cases. The CDC recommends people living in high community level areas wear masks in public when indoors.