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State adopts federal guidance recommending Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11

In this Feb. 25, 2021, file photo, vials for the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are displayed on a tray at a clinic set up by the New Hampshire National Guard in the parking lot of Exeter, N.H., High School.

SPRINGFIELD – 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 Wednesday.

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 Tuesday night.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks at a news conference Tuesday, one day before IDPH adopted federal recommendations that children aged 5-11 receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. (Credit: Blueroomstream.com)

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. JB 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 Tuesday 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 General Assembly.

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Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. It is funded by donations from the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government. Capitol News Illinois provides year-round, daily coverage of the Legislature, including committee hearings; state agencies and issues; state office holders; and the Illinois Supreme Court and legal matters.

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