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How one health center is leading Chicago on kid COVID shots

Giles Bruce, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

“Around 2 million kids between 5 and 11 years old have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and there’s been about 170 deaths,” Minier said. “That’s still too many. If we have something that can help prevent death or any sort of morbidity for kids for COVID-19, then we should do it.”

Cynthia Galvan, a medical assistant at Esperanza who lives nearby, brought her 10-year-old son, Andres, to get the shot Thursday. She hopes it will ensure her family has a better Thanksgiving than last year, when several of her relatives were sick with COVID-19-19.

“Everyone at home was already vaccinated, except him,” said Cynthia, 34. “There’s 10 of us.”

Chicago’s vaccination rate of 58.2% for 12- to 17-year-olds is higher than the national average of about 50%, largely because of the work of community health centers like Esperanza, said city Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. Not only are they familiar with the local languages and cultures, but they’re also the type of places where the whole family is likely to get immunizations, starting with grandparents last winter.

“We know the biggest predictor of whether a child gets a vaccine is whether the parent or guardian is vaccinated,” Arwady said.

She still worries about the estimated 750,000 residents of the city without immunity to COVID-19. Young Black Chicagoans have lagged behind other groups in getting the shot, and she’s concerned outbreaks could occur this winter among those unvaccinated networks.

 

“One way or another, your immune system is likely to learn its COVID lesson and probably over the next few months,” Arwady said. “So either that’s through the safer way of getting vaccinated or taking your chance of getting infected.”

The city is working to increase vaccine uptake by offering $100 gift cards and administering free shots at home to anyone who wants them.

Last week, Esperanza Health Centers texted the families of each of its roughly 8,000 patients ages 5 to 11 to let their parents know the vaccine was available. The organization started distributing the shots to younger kids the morning of Nov. 3, just hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final go-ahead. They will start giving out second doses in three weeks.

“I hate shots,” said Benicio Decker, 7, as he played a game on an iPad in the clinic’s waiting area on Nov. 4. “The only time I like shots is when we get ice cream after.”

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