Illinois school districts aim to get students vaccinated quickly

Chicago area school districts are starting to plan how to get high school students vaccinated, now that they’re eligible under Illinois guidelines.


Starting on Monday, anyone 16 and older can be vaccinated in the state of Illinois. The only exception is in the City of Chicago, which won’t expand eligibility until next week.

Already there were many younger faces in line at Cook County’s mass vaccination facility in Des Plaines, including 19-year-old Chris Quezeda.

"As long as these kids are getting them and they’re not wasting this opportunity to get the vaccine to get more people back in school, the more fast we can return to normalcy," he said.

That has sparked action by a number of suburban school districts.

"We absolutely are recommending that they get the vaccine," said Maine Township District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace, who hopes to hold a mass vaccination clinic at one or more of the district’s high schools within the month.

"We believe strongly that this is the last big piece of the puzzle, and it’s getting all the teenagers and adolescents vaccinated," he added.

Wallace says two-thirds of the district’s 6,400 students are at least 16, and he says they already have the nurses and health staff to pull it off.

"We know how to do it. We have the ingress in and out. We can set up with a single site. We have the facilities on a Saturday, Sunday it could be for this one purpose, and we can move a lot of kids in and out," Wallace said.

But with the COVID vaccines still in short supply, some question whether young adults really need a shot right now.

"I think they need to still prioritize. Yeah let’s get the olders, like myself, let’s get everybody safe first," said Pam Smialek, who received a vaccine shot at the Des Plaines clinic.

But college professor Michael Lasswell, who is also getting vaccinated, disagrees.

"I think absolutely everybody should be getting it. The new variant is affecting young people as much as it’s affecting old people, so what’s the point of waiting?" he said.

It’s worth noting that only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for 16 and 17-year-olds. Moderna and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines can only be given to those 18 and older.