One day after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that children between the ages of 5 and 11 receive the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, the Illinois Department of Public Health adopted the same recommendations on Nov. 3. 

That vaccine had previously been approved for people 12 years of age and older. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized its emergency use for 5 to 11 year olds last week, and the CDC made the recommendation official the night of Nov. 2. 

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a news release that medical experts have reviewed data from clinical trials that included more than 3,000 children, leading to the CDC recommendation. Those trials showed the vaccine to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children in the age group.  

Children in the trials saw the same side effects as adolescents and adults but to a lesser extent, according to IDPH. The side effects included injection site pain, redness and swelling, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain, chills and fever. They generally lasted one to two days.     

State officials have urged parents with questions or who are wishing to vaccinate their children to call their pediatrician’s office to learn more. 

Pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations will also be available at local health departments, many pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and from other providers who offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to a news release. 

That includes about 2,200 pediatric providers in Illinois who have already enrolled in the state immunization registry and can administer COVID-19 vaccines. IDPH said more than 1,200 youth vaccination events have been held or are scheduled, and the department continues to work with schools to schedule more. 

While children don’t often get severe COVID-19, Ezike said, it is still possible, and infected children play a major role in disease spread. 

“We need as many people as possible, including children, to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus and end this pandemic,” she said in the news release.    

Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state expects to receive 306,000 doses, with another 73,000 going to the city of Chicago and 100,000 doses to pharmacies.

In a Nov. 2 news conference before the approval, Pritzker and Ezike said it is premature to talk about mandating the vaccine for children in order for them to attend school. Such a decision would have to wait at least for full CDC and FDA approval, not just emergency use authorization. 

Pritzker also said that decision would be up to the Illinois General Assembly.

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