Why they're getting vaccinated now: Suburbanites are discovering their reasons every day
Although the initial deluge of demand for COVID-19 inoculations has slowed to a trickle and many mass vaccination sites have closed, suburban residents on a daily basis are still finding personal reasons for seeking out the shots.
For Susana Arceo of Arlington Heights, it's the hope of a vacation free of the restrictions that the unvaccinated must navigate.
For 16-year-old Emma Obrebski of Prospect Heights and 12-year-old Miguel Flores of Cicero, who both visited Cook County's Arlington Heights Health Center for second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine last week, it's the wish for more normal socializing with friends when school resumes.
Another factor gaining traction among recent vaccination seekers is an awareness that the most serious cases of infection are among the unvaccinated as the highly contagious delta variant sweeps across Illinois, said Nimmi Rajagopal, associate chair of the Department of Family & Community Medicine at Cook County Health.
"What's stimulating a lot of people to come in now is seeing what's happening across the country," she said.
While Cook County Health is continuing to hone its message about the importance of vaccinations and make getting them as convenient as possible, every new recipient these days represents a victory for the community, Rajagopal said.
"People are realizing they want to get back to normal."
Diana Chaidez, assistant administrator of the Arlington Heights Health Center, said some of the recent patients who initially held out against getting the shots wanted to wait and see what happened with the vaccinations generally, or what the specific experience was of someone they know.
Arceo lists one recently canceled vacation among her reasons for ending her resistance and coming in for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The fact that her husband had no significant side effects was another reason she chose the vaccine.
"I wasn't sure I wanted to do it," she said. "I was nervous about it. Now my family is pushing me to do it, but I wasn't sure what was going to happen after."
Obrebski also described undergoing a change of heart.
"I was a bit hesitant, but then I realized it was for the best," she said.
Even as she received her second shot, Obrebski was clear about what she was looking forward to in two weeks, when her immunity will have reached its peak.
"Definitely going out more and seeing people more," she said.
Flores is at the youngest age of eligibility for vaccination but said he knew why there was no reason to wait for any more birthdays.
"To be more safe," he said. "My friends are getting vaccinated."
Neither Obrebski nor Flores come from families skeptical about vaccination. Both were accompanied to the clinic by their fully vaccinated fathers. They will join 56% of Illinois residents 12 and older who are fully vaccinated.
"We need to protect ourselves and others," said Flores' father, also named Miguel.
While Rajagopal said that everyone who can be vaccinated should be, she also advocated the effectiveness of masks -- especially for children too young for the shots. It will likely be late fall or winter before children ages 5 to 11 become eligible for vaccination, vaccine makers and regulatory authorities have said.
Rajagopal disputed anyone who would argue that masks are unnecessary or dangerous for children.
"They are grossly underestimating kids," she said. "Kids are incredibly resilient. There's no physical harm in masking kids over 2."
While decrying the often confusing role politics has played during the pandemic, Rajagopal said all the scientific know-how that's continuing to be gained about COVID-19 is contributing to a public that will be better prepared for future health crises.