COVID-19 risk levels drop in suburbs, FDA OKs shots for youngest kids: What's next for parents

  • COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 5 could be approved by federal regulators as soon as Saturday, but suburban parents may need to wait a few days before they're available, local experts advised.

    COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 5 could be approved by federal regulators as soon as Saturday, but suburban parents may need to wait a few days before they're available, local experts advised. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/19/2022 9:12 AM

COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 5 could be approved by federal regulators as soon as Saturday, but suburban parents may need to wait a few days before they're available, local experts advised.

The news comes as COVID-19 transmission levels dropped from high to medium in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties, and to low in McHenry County, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported. Transmission rates in Will County are high, the agency said.

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized emergency use of Pfizer's shots for kids 6 months to 4 years old and Moderna's vaccine for people 6 months to 17 years old.

A CDC panel is expected to vote on approval Saturday, with a final signoff coming from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

Given that FDA experts gave unanimous consent, it's likely the CDC will concur, said pediatrician Michael Bauer, medical director at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.

He hopes to offer shots for young kids at his practice midweek.

"We vaccinate kids all the time for lots of things that aren't as potentially dangerous and lethal as COVID," Bauer said. "While we know that most of the infections in the pediatric age range are fortunately mild, you certainly saw a large increase in hospitalizations during the last omicron surge.

"There were over 400 deaths in the (U.S.) pediatric population since the start of the pandemic, including over 200 deaths in those 4 and under. That needs to be taken very seriously."

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Parents should be aware some protocols involving vaccinating little ones are different from those for older kids and teens.

For example, pharmacists cannot vaccinate children under 3 years old, said Stephanie Atella, immunizations project director with the American Academy of Pediatrics' Illinois chapter.

That means caregivers of the youngest cohort should check with their pediatricians first about shots rather than jumping online to pharmacies, experts said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is working on guidance pending federal approval.

"Many providers are still working on their rollout plans," IDPH spokesman Michael Claffey said.

Places that will be providing pediatric vaccines include hospitals, pediatrician's offices, family practice offices, federally qualified health clinics and local health departments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said the company is awaiting guidance from the FDA and CDC.

"We look forward to receiving additional details regarding the availability of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 6 months to 5 years and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 6 months to 4 years," Engerman said.

Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, Edward Hospital medical director of infection control and prevention, noted that vaccines are "very important for this age group -- they do have a high infection burden."

"Hospitalizations and deaths are very rare, but when they occur they are extremely tragic and entirely preventable," Pinsky said. "It should make parents feel a lot safer to have this vaccine."

New IDPH data shows the averages of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have decreased over the last week.

As of Friday, the seven-day average for new cases of COVID-19 was 3,873 compared to 4,857 on June 10, a 20% decline.

Hospitalization daily averages were 1,146.6 as of Thursday, compared to 1,207 on June 9, a 5% dip.

New cases of COVID-19 numbered 3,499 Friday, with 15 more people dying from the respiratory disease.

Patients in the hospital with COVID-19 came to 1,162 as of Thursday night.

On Thursday, 11,716 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 9,891.

So far, 8,754,366 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or 69.1% of the state's 12.7 million people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's.

Total cases statewide stand at 3,380,095, and 33,994 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

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