Chicago doctors sound alarm on low vaccination rates among young kids: 'There is no time to waste'

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022
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Infectious disease specialists from Chicago area children's hospitals sounded the alarm about the low vaccination rates among the younger kids.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's now been a month since kids ages 6 months to 4 years old have been eligible to get their first shots, yet, not many have.

There is plenty of COVID vaccine available for the youngest age group at Esperanza Health Centers.

"The organization so far has vaccinated 130 patients since the vaccine came out," said Dr. Juan Campbell, Esperanza Health Centers.

It's a small number considering Esperanza has five clinics across Chicago's Southwest Side, and the organization is far from unique.

According to the Chicago Dept. of Public Health, only 6.4% of the youngest age group have been vaccinated in Chicago. Numbers are low across the Chicago region and the country.

"There is no time to waste if we want our children to be protected by the start of the school year," said Dr. Allison Bartlett, University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.

Infectious disease specialists from Chicago area children's hospitals sounded the alarm about the low vaccination rates among the younger kids. They said many parents are telling their pediatricians they want to wait or don't think their child will get too sick if they get COVID, which doctors dispute.

"Children can become extremely sick from COVID 19," said Dr. Michael Capello, Advocate Children's Hospital. "Some even require hospitalization, occasionally intensive care."

Besides hesitancy, Campbell said COVID fatigue is possibly playing a role, too.

"They don't see it on the news and they feel it is safe to wait," he said.

Campbell said all he can do is keep trying to convince parents the vaccine is safe for their kids, and to get it sooner than later.

"I tell them, 'Tell me all the concerns you have and I'm here to answer you, and I'll spend as much time as you need so we can talk about it,'" he said.

Campbell and other pediatricians expect the vaccine rate among the final and youngest age group to go up once school starts and COVID cases increase in classrooms.