Comer Vaccination

A Comer Children's Hospital staff member speaks with William Hannan, son of Dr. Allison Bartlett, Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist at University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, who is looking over his shoulder, after he got his first pediatric Covid-19 vaccination Friday, November 5, 2021.

Five- to 11-year-olds can get and are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, changing the game once again in the course of the worst pandemic in more than a century.

Chicago Public Schools will close on Friday, Nov. 12, in order for students to get vaccinated, and city employees will get two hours off from work to get their shots. Beyond the regular clinics and pharmacies where immunizations are being offered, a number of additional locations are offering the shots locally in the days ahead:

Comer Children's Hospital, 5721 S. Maryland Ave., is having a vaccine clinic on Tuesdays from 5-6:45 p.m., on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Other vaccinations are also available, as are COVID-19 vaccines for those 12 and older. Call 773-834-8221 for an appointment.

The CPS vaccination van will be at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., from 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 12. Registration is online.

CPS students and families can also get vaccinated at schools-based clinics; on the South Side, at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy, 2100 E. 87th St. on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at Richards High School, 5009 S. Laflin St., on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration is online.

More information is available at cps.edu/vaccinations. People do not need government-issued identification or health insurance to get vaccinated.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is hosting family vaccination clinics, including boosters, into January at the City Colleges for Chicagoans aged 5 and older, including:

  • Kennedy-King College, 6300 S. Halsted St., on Saturday, Nov. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 11
  • Olive-Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn Ave., on Sunday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Dec. 12.

Registration is online.

"Like other pediatric vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine was thoroughly tested before being recommended," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a Friday, Nov. 5, press conference at Comer. "Clinical trials with thousands of children 5 years old and older showed the Pfizer COVID vaccine to be safe and effective, and millions of adolescents in the U.S. have received vaccine under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history."

There have been fewer COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among children than adults, but children can still get sick from the coronavirus, and they can still spread the disease. Far more children have become infected with the coronavirus over the past months because of the spread of the delta variant. The long-term effects of COVID-19 on children can be serious.

"In addition to all the effort and science and study that went into the trials for the vaccines, I want to highlight that we're administering these vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring effort in U.S. history," said Dr. Allison H. Bartlett, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at UChicago Medicine. "Both existing and new systems have been developed to track the vaccines.

"The most important part of the vaccine trials in these younger children was to find the right dose that maximizes their immune response and minimizes the side effect," she said. Researchers figured that one-third the dose that those aged 12 and up is the right amount for young children's immune systems to generate an infection-fighting antibody response.

Young children will see the same side effects from the vaccine as older adults, such as soreness at the infection site, fatigue and muscle aches, but generally to a lesser degree.

"We all have to make a decision, to vaccinate our children or not," Bartlett said. "Whichever you choose, there are risks and benefits associated with that decision."

She brought up the issue of the vaccines and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, which are associated with between 1 in 10,000 to 20,000 instances, chiefly vaccinated young men aged 16-24. Bartlett said that COVID-19 and pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, aka multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), are profoundly more likely to cause myocarditis than the vaccines, and the myocarditis they cause is much more severe.

The vaccine will allow CPS students who have been exposed to an infected person to remain at school, so long as they are not showing symptoms themselves. Studies have consistently shown that vaccinated people are significantly less likely to spread COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.

"We have to start protecting our children," said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. "We know the holidays are coming. We see historically how cases rise right after the holidays, and we are still quarantining children today. We are still quarantining children now. We're reducing the quarantining period (from 14 to 10 days), but I'll tell you, every time I see a child being quarantined, I know it's a hardship for our families, it's a hardship for our teachers."

In the week before “Vaccination Awareness Day,” Martinez said CPS would work with the CDPH and the district's own medical staff to let families know what vaccine providers will be available on Nov. 12, and he said he and the mayor would lead by example to ask employers to give their workers time to get their shots.

"It's going to be a full, city-wide effort," he said. "I'm also going to work with the Park District and the libraries and other providers who can help us with families that need child care. But I want families to know: this is an investment for the rest of the school year."

He added that CPS has no plans to cancel classes three weeks after Vaccination Awareness Day, on Friday, Dec. 3, when people will be due for their second dose. Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Department of Public Health, pointed to the planned weekend vaccination clinics at the City Colleges as opportunities to get the second doses.

Reached for comment, Principal Charlie Bright of Bret Harte Elementary, 1556 E. 56th St., said the school would be electronically communicating with its families about the Friday vaccination day alongside plenty of information in its weekly newsletter. He also said there would be plenty of opportunities for one-on-ones with parents to answer questions at dismissal.

He said he is getting more calls from parents about where they can get their children vaccinated, especially as the holidays draw near, and he said parents of older children, 10- and 11-year-olds, nearer to the old 12-year-old cut-off, are more ready to get their kids vaccinated than those of younger ones.

At any rate, Bright hopes as many of Bret Harte's students get vaccinated as quickly as possible; nevertheless, he said the school will be taking the same precautions as always.

Bartlett — who appeared in the Herald on March 16, 2020, alongside Dr. Emily Landon when they warned that the University of Chicago Medical Center would fail as a hospital without immediate social distancing on everyone's part — said in an interview after the Friday press conference that it is astounding how far we have come since then, both in terms of the vaccine's utterly lifesaving benefits to a huge number of people around the world balanced with huge numbers of people not taking advantage of it.

"We are still seeing severe cases and deaths that are preventable if people are vaccinated," she said. "The overwhelming majority of cases, especially those who end up in the hospital and dying, are in people who are not vaccinated. So that is going to continue."

The 94 U.S. 5- to 11-year olds who have died from COVID-19 is 94 more than any pediatrician is willing to accept. COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease, and she pointed to the vaccine's educational benefit, to let children stay in school in person, both because they will not get sick, and because they will be able to be managed differently if exposed to someone with COVID-19.

"These kids want to get back to normal," she said.

She got her son, William Hannan, 9, vaccinated on Friday — a strange experience as members of the Chicago media and the mayor watched in eager anticipation. He played video games during his post-vaccination monitoring period. Neither of his parents had felt too bad after their vaccinations, and he wasn't too worried either.

"I feel pretty good coming back to do some stuff that I haven't been able to do for a long time, like go outside and actually be able to have sleepovers and playdates with my friends," he said. "I'm going to hopefully have some sometime soon."

He has twin older brothers who just turned 12 and started their vaccination series; Bartlett said he's been lucky to have them but that her sons are all kind of sick of each other. As a research pediatrician focusing on infectious diseases, she's been cautious during the pandemic.

"We had our first masked playdate during the past week or two," she said. "I'm really excited for him and his friends having this extra layer of protection so he can get back out and start doing more normal play."


Cases are increasing in Chicago as colder weather sets in, though the rise has not yet manifested in mid-South Side neighborhood data. On Friday, Arwady reiterated that the most important thing remains that any age-eligible person get vaccinated. The case increase will expectedly fall very hard on unvaccinated families and social networks.

Five- to 11-year-olds having a first dose by Thanksgiving, she said, will give them some protection against COVID-19, which will be important when everyone, particularly those who are still too young to get vaccinated, gets together and takes off their masks to eat.

  • In 60653, covering North Kenwood and Oakland, 19 people tested positive for COVID-19 out of 1,676 tests conducted from Oct. 24-30 — a 1.5% positivity — down from 23 the week before, and no one died, the same as the week before. The number of tests performed increased 5%.
  • In 60615, covering northern Hyde Park, southern Kenwood and northern Washington Park, 20 people tested positive out of 2,302 tests, up from 18 — a 1% positivity — and no one died, down from one the week before. The number of tests rose 8%.
  • In 60637, covering southern Hyde Park, southern Washington Park and Woodlawn, 46 people tested positive out of 3,250 tests, up from 45 — a 1.7% positivity — and no one died, the same as the week before. The number of tests rose 4%
  • In 60649, South Shore, 31 people tested positive out of 2,684 tests — a 1.7% positivity — up from 23, and no one died, the same as the week before. The number of tests performed rose 6%.
  • In Hyde Park, 74.5% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated, up 0.3% from the week before.
  • In Kenwood, 63.6% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated, up 0.4%.
  • In Woodlawn, 46.8% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated, up 0.5%.
  • In Washington Park, 43.2% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated, up 0.7%.
  • In Oakland, 54.5% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated, up 0.5%.
  • In South Shore, 48.7% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated, up 0.5%.
  • In Douglas, 54.7% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated, up 0.7%.

In Chicago, 69.7% of the population aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated.

The city's website for COVID-19 testing information is chi.gov/covidtesting. The city's website for vaccine information is chicago.gov/covidvax. The federal government’s vaccine information website is vaccines.gov. City operators are available at 312-746-4835 to handle any questions regarding the vaccine.

Beginning on Monday, Nov. 15, 5- through 11-year-olds can also be vaccinated through the Protect Chicago at Home program. Up to 10 people at once can be vaccinated at their homes by appointment through it; hours are weekdays, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Anyone who gets vaccinated (both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available) will receive $100 Visa gift cards, which can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. More information is at 312-746-4835 or chicago.gov/athome.

Neighborhood pharmacies, including Katsaros Pharmacy, 1521 E. 53rd St., Walgreens (1-800-925-4733) and CVS (1-800-679-9691) are offering the vaccine by appointment and on a walk-in basis. Appointments at Katsaros are available online at katsarospharmacy.com.

Howard Brown Health is offering the Pfizer vaccine at its Hyde Park clinic, 1525 E. 55th St., with sign up at 773-388-1600. UChicago Medicine is vaccinating everyone regardless of patient status. The scheduling number is 1-888-824-0200.

The Cook County government is offering sign-up for vaccines at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.

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