'This is a very important moment for our family': Suburban kids start getting COVID-19 vaccine
Things were a bit different for 6-year-old Amelia Ateca's return to Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge Thursday.
The girl bounced down the hallway, literally skipping to her appointment with a needle to be one of the first kids in the Chicago area between ages 5 and 11 to receive a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
It's a far cry from a year ago when, at age 4, she was one of the first children in the nation to be diagnosed with the debilitating pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, MIS-C, stemming from her previous COVID-19 infection. She was on a ventilator for seven days while hospitalized.
"This is a very important moment for our family after what happened with Amelia," said the girl's mother, Alicia Lopez-Ateca, of Chicago. "I don't want another parent or another child to have to go through what we did, so if there's a preventive measure that you can take, you should be taking it."
Scores of children received the child-size doses of the vaccine Thursday at the hospital's special clinic. Dozens more will be getting them Friday at another one at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Lake Barrington, hospital officials said.
Among those scheduled with vaccine appointments there are Kimberly Saunders' three children.
The children, 6-year-old Brendan, 9-year-old Ashley and Ryan, who turns 11 Friday, have actually been looking forward to this moment, their mother said.
"I don't think they like shots, but they want these," Saunders said. "For them, this is a path back to normal life and this is what we do to end the pandemic."
Vaccine providers throughout the country are expecting an initial crush of parents booking vaccination appointments for children in this newly eligible age group. Many public health departments and national pharmacy chains have begun scheduling appointments for this weekend or next week.
Health officials urge parents to contact their pediatricians or visit vaccines.gov to find a provider scheduling vaccination appointments.
"Individuals who have not yet received the COVID vaccine are most at risk of getting infected and spreading the virus," said Dr. Mope Akintorin, chairwoman of pediatrics for Cook County Health. "Getting vaccinated is the easiest and most effective way to stay safe. In clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine was shown to be 90% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, and children ages 5 to 11 had fewer side effects from the vaccine than teens and adults."
A recent poll of parents with children in that age range showed 55% are planning to have their children immunized. Those figures have not wavered much from prior polling data over the past six months.
"Ryan said this is what he wanted for his birthday. He legitimately did," Saunders said of her eldest. "He's been quarantined a couple times for exposure at school and had to have a bunch of tests, and he's ready to move on. And he told me he doesn't want to get really sick and go to the hospital or get someone else really sick and have them go to the hospital."