'Essential we make the right call': HHS secretary visits suburbs to urge kids' COVID-19 shots
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra used the backdrop of Waukegan, a community hard hit by COVID-19, to urge parents Tuesday to schedule vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11.
"They're our youngest and they're depending on us. They don't get to make those calls. We do. And it is essential we make the right call," Becerra said during a roundtable at Jack Benny Middle School organized by U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Deerfield.
Although children typically have milder cases of COVID-19 compared to adults, "we've still lost kids, we've had kids who've gone to the hospital, and we have kids who are suffering from long-term aftereffects," Becerra said.
He noted that 28 million children are now eligible for shots. "It's a great day," he said.
Becerra's visit coincided with a grim threshold for Illinois, as deaths since the pandemic began crossed the 26,000 mark, with 22 more deaths reported Tuesday.
In Lake County, Hispanic and Black residents are among those who are "most vulnerable" to COVID-19, Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said, a trend that's also occurring across the U.S. In Lake, the COVID-19 case rate shows "two times greater prevalence for African Americans and three times the prevalence for Hispanic or Latino individuals," Pfister said.
When schools closed in March 2020, Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 leaders hustled to get computers and meals to numerous students, board President Brandon Ewing told Becerra.
"Food and security and poverty are real and prevalent in District 60," he said.
Vaccination also lags in many minority communities. For example, in Waukegan ZIP code 60085, about 52.8% of residents are fully inoculated compared to 56.9% statewide, according to Illinois Department of Public Health records Tuesday.
District 60 will be taking a lead role in getting students inoculated, Superintendent Theresa Plascencia said.
Across the state, new cases of COVID-19 totaled 2,245 Tuesday, and Illinois hospitals were treating 1,393 COVID-19 patients Monday night.
On Monday, 44,122 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 53,271.
The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 2.2% based on a seven-day average.
So far, 751,006 people in the state have been fully vaccinated, or 56.9% of Illinois' 12.7 million population.
The federal government has delivered 19,068,895 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 16,046,642 shots have been administered.
Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was authorized Nov. 2 for children ages 5 to 11.
"That is going to be critical to getting families back together for the holidays, keeping our schools open and safe, and strengthening our communities," said Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,722,590, and 26,008 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
Labs processed 68,679 virus tests in the last 24 hours.