Get the kids vaccinated? Many suburban parents eager to get it done, but others hesitate
Julie Herrera never really had to ask her 12-year-old daughter Ella if she wanted to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
"I think she knew it had been approved for kids her age before I did," the Naperville mother of two teenagers said. "She asked me today if I'd made her an appointment, and I had to tell her they weren't available yet."
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Monday for anyone 12 and older, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immunization panel still has to authorize its use for 12- to 15-year-olds. That move is expected Wednesday.
Some public health agencies are so confident that the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will give the OK that they are offering vaccines within the next few days.
In Lake County, appointments can be made for Thursday at the county fairgrounds in Grayslake through the allvax.lakecohealth.org website. DuPage County Health Department officials said appointments will probably be available by Monday and appointments could be made at their website, dupagehealth.org/covid19vaccine.
For those in Cook County, officials plan to begin inoculating anyone 12 and older on Thursday and appointments are available through vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.
"We are now seeing the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in younger people," said Dr. Gregory Huhn, infectious disease physician and Cook County Health's COVID-19 vaccine coordinator. "If we want kids to return to school, sports and friends as safely as possible, they should be vaccinated. It is our best chance at giving them some sense of normalcy back."
Health experts acknowledge many parents are hesitant or opposed to vaccinating their children.
Some parents cite the fact the vaccine has been authorized only for "emergency use" by the FDA. Pfizer is in the process of seeking licensed authorization from the FDA for full use of the vaccine to assuage such concerns.
"I need more data to feel this is truly safe for my kids," a Barrington woman said in response to a Daily Herald Facebook question about vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds. She said the adults in her family are vaccinated.
Other parents say they can't wait to get their kids vaccinated.
Ruby Reveles is on her third round of securing vaccines for her family. She got herself and her husband fully vaccinated, and then her two oldest sons, who are 17 and 20, as they became eligible. Now, the Montgomery woman is back online looking for appointments for 14-year-old Brian and 15-year-old AJ.
"They both said it was something they wanted to do," she said. "Even though one is usually a little more cautious than the other, they both said they feel more at risk without the vaccine. And I want them to have it because they're now the most susceptible to it because they're the youngest, and that's not fair to them."
Illinois Department of Public Health records show that hospitalizations of children for COVID-19 more than doubled during a two-week span in April and still remain 55% higher than before that spike.
In comparison, COVID-19 hospitalizations among adults in Illinois grew by 33% during the two-week spike in April and now have dipped back to the same level as before.
A 15-year-old from Bolingbrook died last week after testing positive for COVID-19.
Warrenville 14-year-old Peter Banaszek said he wants to get vaccinated so school will be "normal again" and he won't have to worry about getting sick.
His mom, Jessica, said the decision ultimately is her son's, but he's seen her and her husband, as well as his older sisters, get the vaccine.
"It was a no-brainer for him," she said. "He has seen what the pandemic has done to our community, and since both my husband and I work in health care, he was concerned for our safety and relieved when we got our vaccinations."
Dr. Caroline Fulton, a child and adolescent psychologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, said parents should discuss the decision to get vaccinated with their children so they are part of the process.
"Maintaining a nonjudgmental approach no matter what side they're on is important," Fulton said. "This presents a great opportunity for parents to model how to seek out reliable information."
She urged parents to check in with the child's pediatrician with any concerns the parents or children might have about getting vaccinated.
Those under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian with them to receive a vaccination.
"I would encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, said during a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing Tuesday. "I recognize there are some parents who want to see how it goes because they don't want to be first, but I'm also encouraging children to ask for the vaccine."
Information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about the COVID-19 vaccine and children is at healthychildren.org. The academy, based in Itasca, will hold an online "town hall" about vaccinations for adolescents at 7 p.m. Thursday. Registration is at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_61dBaJUFTeKmqLycNnWwBg.
Some suburban school districts and park districts are offering vaccination clinics for teenagers.
Naperville Unit District 203 and neighboring Indian Prairie Unit District 204 have scheduled a clinic for May 22 for students who are eligible. Officials said younger students who become eligible will likely be able to book appointments, too.
Itasca Park District officials said they still have spots available at a vaccination clinic being held Friday and there is no residency requirement. Registration is available through eventbrite.com. The second dose will be administered Friday, June 4.