COVID-19 shots for kids 5-11 expected in days, but 'we have to work on the parents' who resist
Assuming a speedy approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 by federal regulators, doses could arrive in Illinois by Monday, the state's top health official said Thursday.
There are multiple logistics to work through before all parents eager to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 can start scheduling shots, but that's likely to be the easy part.
More difficult could be convincing vaccine-hesitant parents to get their kids inoculated, officials said.
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that 24% of parents surveyed in mid-September said they definitely wouldn't get their 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated.
About 34% said they would seek shots "right away" after authorization, and 32% had a "wait and see" approach, the foundation said.
"We definitely are going to be working on putting information through the schools into backpacks, but, again, we have to work on the parents," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said Thursday in Aurora while getting her COVID-19 booster shot.
"We know that the parents have to believe and understand the benefits of this vaccine for themselves as much as if not more than for their children, so that campaign of getting to the unvaccinated continues."
Public health officials have warned that the vast majority of COVID-19 patients in hospitals now are unvaccinated, and Ezike cited data indicating that 18- to 49-year-olds who are not vaccinated comprise 44% of U.S. hospitalizations.
"We hope that the information about who we're seeing that is being affected by COVID-19 as we move forward will start to ring true for parents who will see the benefits of this vaccine," she said.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel of experts said the benefits of the COVID-19 for children 5 to 11 outweighed any risks. But FDA leaders must also sign off on emergency authorization as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
"We're looking forward to having vaccines in the state by Nov. 1," Ezike said, adding if approvals come this week, supplies could start being shipped on the weekend.
The Food and Drug Administration could grant emergency use authorization on Friday, The Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, the Cook County Department of Public Health said Thursday it was working with suburban schools to offer vaccination clinics.
The department will also offer shots for kids at its clinics after emergency use is granted and is working to "recruit" more pediatricians to provide inoculations.
"Measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask remain important, but vaccinating as many children as possible keeps the students, staff and everyone in school protected and healthy," said pediatrician Jacqueline Korpics, medical director for the department's COVID-19 Response.