Chicago to start vaccinations for children as young as 12 this week

The CDC is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 on Wednesday and doctors in Chicago and surrounding counties say they are ready to vaccinate the young teens as soon as Thursday.

In preparation of an increase in demand, five Cook County mass vaccination sites are extending their hours, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. The changes are coming to the Matteson, River Grove, South Holland, Des Plaines, and Forest Park sites.

Most Chicago vaccination sites that offer the Pfizer doses are expecting to be able to offer it to 12 to 15-year-olds on Thursday. That also goes for Cook County, Will and Lake county clinics.

Appointments will not be necessary as most clinics are accepting walk-ins. Make sure you check with the clinic before your teenager gets vaccinated, as some sites may require a parent to be present, while others may just require a parent or guardian’s signature.

In addition, now comes the job of convincing parents it’s safe for their children to get the shot.

A group of pediatricians, who are parents themselves, joined together Tuesday to do just that.

Representing the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance, the group said while children and teens are less likely to get seriously ill from the virus they do account for one quarter of the new cases and can still spread the virus.

"Even those who have not contracted the disease have certainly felt it’s lasting effects in other ways,"said Dr. Sharon Robinson, a pediatrician at NorthShore University Health System. "They have missed out on graduations, birthday celebrations and play dates."


Dr. Robinson said unfounded fears about the vaccine include the potential for infertility or irregular periods.

But all three doctor participating in the news conference said as far as they’reconcerned, the sooner you can get your child a shot the better.

"Please remember by vaccinating everyone in your household ages 12 and up you’re helping to protect the vulnerable children in your household and across our community," said Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital said.

The group said children face the same side effects from the vaccine as adults: tenderness at the injection site, fatigue aches and chills. But health officials say the vaccine is even more effective in the 12 to 15 age group.

"Your chances of having an adverse side effects from actually getting the virus or a complication is higher than any risk that you would have from getting the vaccine," said Dr. Frank Belmonte, the chief medical officer of Advocate Children’s Hospital.

"So as a pediatrician and the father of two daughters that are in this age group, I’m getting my daughters vaccinated as soon as I can schedule the appointment."