Bakari Blackburn

Bakari Blackburn gets a Pfizer vaccine shot from nurse Melissa Ontanon in a CTA bus converted to a Chicago Department of Public Health mobile vaccination station at William H. Ray School, Saturday morning, May 22. 

So your children are off school Friday, and you’re scrambling to figure out the meaning of Chicago’s inaugural “Vaccination Awareness Day.” Here are eight things to know. 

What is Vaccination Awareness Day? And is it just a Chicago thing? 

Last week, with the arrival of the pediatric COVID vaccine under federal emergency use authorization, Chicago Public Schools suddenly announced that it would cancel school on Nov. 12, for a “Vaccination Awareness Day.” In an e-mail to parents, district CEO Pedro Martinez encouraged families to seek out vaccinations for children — and bring along teens and older adults who have not yet received a shot.

The day appears to be a Chicago invention, promoted to boost vaccination rates among school-age children. But the last-minute cancellation of Friday classes has irked parents who are scrambling for child care. 

The day is among seven no-school days in Chicago Public Schools during November, including a school improvement day and a parent-teacher conference day.

What age is eligible? 

The federal government last week issued emergency authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to children age 5 and older. 

The doses for children are one-third of an adult dosage and use smaller needles; not all sites offering vaccines in Chicago have received their doses for children ages 5-11. So look for a site that specifically offers pediatric vaccines. 

Where can I go to get my child vaccinated on Vaccination Awareness Day? 

Officials said on Tuesday that about 200 sites will offer the pediatric vaccine on Friday, including pediatricians’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, clinics organized by the health department, and schools. 

Chicago Public Schools will offer vaccinations at four regional hubs: Michele Clark Magnet High School, 5101 W. Harrison St., on the city’s West Side; Richards High School, 5030 S. Bishop St., and Chicago Vocational, 2100 E. 87th St., on the city’s South Side; and Roosevelt High School, 3436 W. Wilson Ave., on the city’s Northwest Side. Chicago Public Schools said it also will deploy a mobile vaccination van to multiple school sites.

Officials have encouraged parents to make appointments in advance. As of Tuesday afternoon, Friday appointments were available at three of the four regional school clinic sites and at two mobile clinic sites (Chávez Elementary, 4747 S. Marshfield Ave., in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, and Nixon Elementary, 2121 N Keeler Ave. in Hermosa). Only Roosevelt High School on the city’s North Side was fully booked for pediatric vaccination appointments. (To book an appointment at a regional site, click here. To book an appointment for the mobile van or see the schedule, click here.)

The city’s teachers union will offer pediatric vaccinations from noon to 3 p.m. Friday at its headquarters on the Near West Side, 1901 W. Carroll Ave., in cooperation with Broadway Medical Center. Advance registration is requested. Click here to register. 

Several community organizations also are offering single day events on Friday:

  • Family vaccine clinic, Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western Ave.: 9 a.m. - noon. Register online or by phone at 773-254-1400
  • Little Black Pearl Pop-Up: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Register online or walk in at 1060 E. 47th St.
  • Family vaccine clinic, Harmony Community Church, 1908 S. Millard Ave: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Register online.

Local pharmacies are running their own registration, but appointments were mostly full at the major pharmacies for Friday. 

  • Walgreens still had some appointments at a handful of locations: Register online, or call your local Walgreens or 1-800-925-4733.
  • CVS: Register online, or call your local CVS or 1-800-679-9691.
  • Mariano’s: Register online.
  • Walmart: Call 1-833-886-0023, option 1.
  • Chicago Costco pharmacies: Register online for an appointment or call a pharmacy directly.

It’s not Friday, but the Chicago Department of Public Health will host family vaccination clinics at City Colleges of Chicago on Saturday at Richard J. Daley College, 7500 S. Pulaski Road, and on Sunday at Wilbur Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave.. Advance registration is required. Both clinics will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Standing CDPH immunization clinics will also offer pediatric COVID-19 vaccines by appointment only. This includes Uptown WIC 845 W. Wilson Ave., second level (call 312-742-3227 for an appointment) and the Greater Lawn WIC, 4150 W. 55th St. (call 312-745-1477 for an appointment).

What if I prefer to get vaccinated at home? 

Chicago is offering a home-based vaccination program, but it will not launch until next week, officials said. Make an at-home appointment at Chicago.gov/AtHome or by calling 312-746-4835.

What is the evidence that the pediatric vaccine is effective? 

In clinical trials, the Pfizer shot was found to be 91% effective at preventing COVID in children — similar to effectiveness in adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal health officials said the side effects among children were “mild” and similar to that of other vaccines that children receive. The most common side effect was a sore arm, the CDC said in a statement.

Children are supposed to receive two shots, administered three weeks apart.

What are the options for child care on Friday for working parents? 

The Chicago Park District said it will offer programs at 54 parks at no cost to parents. (Click here for the list of sites and to register. Advance registration was encouraged, and some park sites had already filled as of Tuesday afternoon.)

Meanwhile, the YMCA planned to offer “full-day education and child care” to families struggling to find support on Vaccination Awareness Day.

The YMCA program, which runs 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, is offered for 5- to 12-year-olds. Rates start at $40 a day for members but vary by location. The program will be first come, first served. Parents and guardians are encouraged to register in advance.

Participating locations are: Irving Park, 4251 W. Irving Park Road; Kelly Hall, 824 N. Hamlin Ave.; Lakeview, 3333 N. Marshfield Ave.; McCormick, 1834 N. Lawndale Ave.; Rauner Family, 2700 S. Western Ave.; South Side, 6330 S. Stony Island Ave.

Are there any incentives for families to get vaccinated? 

Yes. Families who take children to school-based sites or clinics organized by the public health department are eligible to receive a $50 gift card per dose, up to $100. 

Are there any other perks to Vaccination Awareness Day? 

City officials said some museums will offer free admission to Chicago Public Schools students. Notable on the list are the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, and the Museum of Science of Industry, 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive. 

Still have questions? Email us at chicago.tips@chalkbeat.org.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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