Only 5.3% of Illinois Children Under 5 Have Received a COVID-19 Vaccine, Concerning Pediatricians

Only about 5.3% of Illinois children under the age of 5 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine nearly a month after young children first became eligible to receive the vaccines, a figure that worries local pediatric leaders.

“We are deeply concerned about low COVID-19 vaccination rates in children across the country,” Dr. Sharon Robinson, a pediatrician at NorthShore University Health System, said at a news conference Wednesday. “We know that vaccination not only protects the people who receive it, but also our community as a whole.”

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

Although most children do not get seriously ill from COVID-19, some require hospitalization, doctors from NorthShore, Advocate Children’s Hospital and University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, working together as Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance, said at a news conference Wednesday. . . Advocate and Comer now have some children hospitalized with COVID-19, doctors said.

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

Some children also develop prolonged symptoms of COVID-19. And some may develop a rare but serious disease linked to COVID-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.

“The approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years of age was a great step in protecting children and their families from COVID-19 and its long-term effects, but unfortunately, we are not seeing the response to the vaccine that we waited among the parents. of the children,” Cappello said. “Many families are hesitant to vaccinate their young children.”

Some families avoid vaccines because they are concerned about their safety or side effects. Others don’t think their children need it because children don’t usually get very sick from COVID-19, Robinson said.

Robinson, however, stressed Wednesday that vaccines are safe and that when children do experience side effects, they are usually mild, such as soreness or a low-grade fever. It’s also safe for children to receive the COVID-19 vaccines along with their other regular childhood immunizations, he said.

Difficulty finding vaccines may also be holding back some families.

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

But some parents who were eager to vaccinate their infants and toddlers right away found that hard to get the shots because Illinois pharmacies cannot vaccinate children under 3 years of age, and some pediatricians’ offices have been slow to distribute vaccines to their patients.

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

NorthShore expects to start offering the shots to young children at their pediatricians’ offices in the next week, a delay Robinson blamed on logistical problems.

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

There are two vaccines available for young children, including a Pfizer vaccine, which has been licensed for children ages 6 months to 4 years, and a Modern vaccine licensed for children ages 6 months to 5 years. Pfizer’s vaccine consists of three doses given over the course of about 11 weeks, with each dose about a tenth of the adult dose. The Moderna vaccine consists of two doses, given approximately four weeks apart. Each injection of Moderna is about a quarter of the adult dose.

“There is no time to lose if we want our children to be protected at the beginning of the school year,” said Dr. Allison Bartlett, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Comer.

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

In Chicago, approximately 48% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, even though vaccines have been available for that age group since the end of 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 vaccinated, with about 63% of children ages 12-17 fully vaccinated statewide.

With an omicron subvariant now forming the most cases in the USthe city of Chicago and the counties of Cook, Lake, DuPage and Will are considered in “high” community levels of COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and your number of new COVID-19 cases. The CDC recommends that people who live in high community areas wear masks in public when indoors.

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