For Meghan Paulas, the wait to get her one-year-old son vaccinated against COVID-19 was over. Just days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccine to include children under 5 years old, Paulas called her physician’s office to schedule an appointment for her youngest son, who is the last member of her family to get the shot.
“It’s been such a long time coming,” said Paulas, who brought her son to the Lake Street Family Physicians in Oak Park last week to receive the first dose of a two-shot Moderna series.
After months of waiting, Paulas told Wednesday Journal she was relieved when the FDA announced June 17 that the vaccine was now available for children ages 6 months to 4 years old, the last age group to receive eligibility. Paulas said her two older children are fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 – and now, it was her one-year-old’s turn. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been authorized by the FDA. For children 6 months old to 4 years old, the Pfizer COVID vaccine is a three-dose series, while the Moderna is a two-dose series.
“There’s been a lot of rollercoasters of emotions throughout the pandemic, and I did get pretty emotional that he’s on his way to be fully vaccinated now, and with a really good vaccine, too. It is like a big weight off the shoulders,” she said.
Oak Park Public Health Director Theresa Chapple-McGruder echoed Paulas’ reactions, adding the department received shipments of the vaccine for younger children last Tuesday and would begin offering the vaccine to individuals 6 months and older starting at the June 28 clinic at the Cheney Mansion. The health department is hosting vaccination clinics every Tuesday at the Cheney Mansion, 220 N. Euclid Ave. in Oak Park, throughout the summer. Registration is required, and more information about those clinics can be found on the village website at www.oak-park.us.
“I’m excited. I’m excited for the community,” Chapple-McGruder said. “I’m excited for my 4-year-old.”
Chapple-McGruder shared further there were infants and small children in Oak Park who were hospitalized when COVID-19 cases spiked due to the omicron subvariants. “Knowing that these vaccines are effective in lowering risk of hospitalization is extremely important and should be heartwarming for all of the parents that have children in that 0 to 4 [age] range. All of us have been waiting these two and a half years for it.”
For Oak Park mother Melissa*, she said she felt “forgotten” because it took so long for the FDA to grant an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the COVID-19 vaccine to include children under 5 years old. Melissa, who requested her name be withheld due to privacy concerns, said she and many other parents have had to put up with stricter guidelines in daycare centers and preschools because their children were part of the unvaccinated population.
“It’s still just so frustrating to be disrupted, especially for the little kids. Anyone who has a small child knows that routine is basically crucial,” the mother of two said. “They need their routine. They need their habits.”
While the expansion of the vaccine eligibility has given her the chance to protect both her children, Melissa said parents with young children may still face another hurdle when securing vaccine appointments. For example, Walgreens vaccinates children ages 3 and older and CVS Pharmacy vaccinates children 18 months and older. That means, parents may have to look elsewhere such as a hospital or physician’s office to lock down an appointment.
Parents also have to check which pharmacies are offering what vaccines, she said.
“As far as I could see on their online scheduling, there were no Moderna vaccines available in Oak Park through Walgreens or CVS,” said Melissa. Melissa later secured an appointment for her 3-year-old son to receive the first of his two-dose Moderna series at a Walgreens in nearby Cicero.
“If you have the ability to check multiple places for appointments, [do it],” she advised. “Keep checking the health department. Keep checking with your pediatrician, and specifically asking your pediatrician and then making sure that you just also check the pharmacies.”
*Editor’s Note: Wednesday Journal has agreed to change the names of the parents in the story to protect their identities.