Here’s what to know about kids’ COVID-19 vaccines in Illinois, and where appointments can be scheduled

Children across Illinois are now getting ready to receive COVID-19 vaccines, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids Tuesday evening.

Here’s what to know:

Q: When will Illinois children be able to start getting shots?

A: It depends on how quickly the vaccines get to area health departments, health systems and pharmacies. Some providers, such as Esperanza Health Centers, began vaccinating kids ages 5 to 11 Wednesday.

Lurie Children’s Hospital said in a message to parents Tuesday that it anticipated starting vaccinations at its main hospital this weekend, and invited parents of its patients to log onto its website luriechildrens.org/vaccine Wednesday morning to begin scheduling appointments. Lurie said it was also working with health departments to get vaccines to its primary care providers.

Advocate Aurora Health planned to allow its patients to make appointments Wednesday evening for shots beginning Thursday, by calling their pediatrician’s office or 866-443-2584. University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital planned to begin giving shots Saturday, by appointments made by calling 773-834-8221.

Many school districts are also working on scheduling after-school vaccination clinics for students, with some expected to take place next week. Chicago Public Schools plans to begin administering shots to kids ages 5 to 11, at its regional vaccination clinics and its mobile school-based events, on Nov. 10. The Chicago Department of Public Health will host family vaccination clinics at City Colleges of Chicago starting Nov. 13, with registration required and beginning Nov. 5.

All 5 to 11-year-olds will be eligible for $100 in Visa gift cards (a $50 card for each dose) when they get their vaccines at Chicago Department of Public Health events or clinics.

Shipments of kids’ vaccines started this week, with plans to scale up to full capacity the week of Nov. 8, according to the CDC.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said last week that more than 2,200 locations and providers statewide had signed up to offer the shots to children ages 5 to 11, including more than 700 pediatric and family practices, more than 700 pharmacy locations, about 100 urgent care locations, 112 local health departments and public health clinics, among others.

Q: Can my kids get the vaccine at their pediatrician’s office?

A: Some pediatricians’ offices have said they plan to vaccinate children, while others are shying away for now because of logistical or other challenges.

Health care leaders are encouraging parents to call their pediatricians’ offices to ask whether the vaccines are available there.

Some pediatric practices, however, may not feel that they have the staff or infrastructure to offer the vaccines at the moment.

Q: Can my kids get the vaccine at a pharmacy?

A: Two of the largest retail pharmacy chains in Illinois, Walgreens and CVS Health, both plan to offer vaccines to kids ages 5 to 11.

Walgreens will begin giving the vaccine to kids in some of its stores beginning Saturday, spokesman Phil Caruso said. Parents can begin making vaccination appointments at Walgreens stores starting Wednesday, by visiting Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, using the Walgreens app or calling 1-800-Walgreens.

CVS said Wednesday that more than 50 stores in Illinois, half of which are in the Chicago area, are currently scheduling pediatric vaccine appointments, with shots starting on Sunday. Patients can schedule appointments at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. The CVS scheduling tool will only display appointments at CVS Pharmacy locations that have the Pfizer pediatric vaccine once the patient’s age is provided.

Q: Is the vaccine for kids the same as the one for adults?

A: The vaccine that has been authorized for use in kids ages 5 to 11 is the Pfizer vaccine, but it is one-third of the dose that adults received. The children’s Pfizer vaccine is formulated differently than the one for adults. The new formulation can be stored for longer in a regular freezer — 10 weeks versus 31 days for the current one, making it easier for more providers to administer it. It’s being shipped to providers in different vials than the Pfizer vaccine for adults.

Children will be given two doses, three weeks apart.

Q: How effective is the Pfizer vaccine for kids?

A: In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to be nearly 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 among children 5 to 11 years old, according to the CDC.

Q: What are the side effects of the vaccine in children?

A: In clinical trials, side effects were mild and similar to the ones experienced by adults and to side effects of other vaccines for children, according to the CDC. The most common side effect was a sore arm.

Fevers were less common in kids ages 5 to 11, in clinical trials, than in older children and young adults, Pfizer said.

Myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, has been a rare side effect of the vaccine, especially in older boys and young men after the second dose. The rate of myocarditis after vaccination among kids ages 5 to 11 is unknown, though there were no cases of myocarditis in the clinical trials with 3,082 kids in that age group.

Among older children and adults who’ve developed myocarditis, most people recovered quickly, according to the CDC.

An advisory committee to the CDC decided Tuesday that the benefits of the vaccine for kids outweigh the risks.

Q: Why should kids get the vaccine, given that most don’t get severely ill from COVID-19?

A: Though severe cases of COVID-19 in kids are rare, some children do develop a serious inflammatory syndrome called MIS-C, and some develop “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for weeks or months.

During a six-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold, according to the CDC. Across the country, more than 8,300 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Doctors also note that children sometimes spread COVID-19 to adults, increasing transmission rates. More than 1.2 million children have already been affected by school closures, this school year, related to COVID-19, according to the CDC.