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Pritzker: Prepare now to vaccinate kids aged 5 to 11

October 25, 2021 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois officials and pediatricians urged parents Monday to start preparing to have their young children vaccinated against COVID-19 when shots become available as early as next week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the Illinois Department of Public Health is constructing a distribution program for low-dose vaccines which the Biden administration expects could receive federal approval by Nov. 3. Prepared and persistent parents could have their children aged 5 to 11 fully vaccinated by Christmas, the governor said during a Chicago news conference.

“If you’re a parent, you’re probably asking, ‘Where do I start?’ The answer is, start with your pediatrician,” Pritzker said. “IDPH has reached out to every pediatrician in the state to enroll them in the vaccine distribution program.... Call your pediatrician now to make sure that they’ve enrolled and have ordered doses.”

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Illinois should receive an initial shipment of 400,000 doses, Pritzker said, with 300,000 sent to pediatricians, hospitals and clinics and 100,000 going to pharmacies.

Last Friday, IDPH reported that COVID-19 had claimed 25,590 lives in Illinois among 1.61 million confirmed or probable cases of the disease.

COVID-19 has sickened 6.2 million children in the U.S. since the pandemic arrived in early 2020. One in four new cases now involves a child.

“I’ve seen children lose grandparents, lose their parents, and end up seriously ill themselves,” said Dr. Jihad Shoshara, president of Pediatric Health Associates, with offices in Chicago’s western suburbs.

In addition to medical facilities, the vaccine will be available in parent-approved school-based events.

Face coverings have been required in schools since Oct. 4 and Illinois requires teachers to be vaccinated or be tested at least weekly for COVID-19. The state’s “Test to Stay” protocol allows students to stay in school even after exposure to a sick classmate by undergoing regular rapid testing in the days immediately following exposure.

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Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor