FOREST PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Chicago and Cook County are prepared to open up mass COVID vaccination clinics to young people Thursday, as some young teenagers are waiting on the final decision about safely getting the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the Pfizer version Wednesday afternoon. A number of states, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, have already started vaccinating kids ages 12 to 15.
The good news is, this is the exact same Pfizer vaccine and dosage that is used for adults. So making an appointment should be relatively straightforward: parents can simply go to any site that already offers Pfizer.
All mass vaccination clinics in Chicago will be open for the new age group Thursday. No appointment is needed, but parental consent is required.
Chicago mass vaccination clinics offering Pfizer vaccine to anyone 12 and older:
A.A.C.C. at Gallagher Way Wrigley Field
Apostolic Faith Church
Chicago State University
Richard J. Daley College
Wilbur Wright College
Cook County Health will make appointments available for children ages 12-15 later this week. Several Cook County mass vaccination sites are offering extended hours so kids can come after school starting Thursday.
Benjamin Kagan, the 15-year-old vaccine hunter, finally received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Forest Park after helping hundreds secure an appointment.
"It feels absolutely incredible, Eric. I've been waiting for this day for a very, very long time. And I've reached it. I've had my vaccine, and I am on my way to safety," Kagan said.
"I'm going to be going away to summer camp, and that is going to be the most normal part of this year for me. I plan on getting back to normal again, going back to school and not feeling fear that I'm going to catch COVID," he added.
Logan Square 13-year-old Elijah Alvarez, who has asthma, also got a shot. His mother lost an uncle to COVID and saw relatives get seriously ill.
"Most of the adults in our family are vaccinated," said his mother, Pricilla Alvarado. "We're very family-oriented. So it's just very important to be able to come together again."
At Erie Family Health Centers in West Town, there were plenty of eager parents and kids. Online appointments across the health system doubled in the past 24 hours, with most of those appointments for 12 to 15 year olds.
"There's a lot of capacity right now. It's kind of good timing, I guess in a way, that the adult demand is waning, and so these sites are still open with plenty of available appointments," said Dr. Daniel Mendoza, a pediatrician at Erie Family Health Centers.
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Approximately 800 students at West Chicago Community High School became eligible to get vaccinated Wednesday. Their district partnered with Jewel-Osco to bring a clinic to students on Friday. Over 200 have signed up so far, including Lisa Willuweit's 14-year-old son, Chase.
"My son was very excited," Willuweit said. "We sat down right away and got registered I think within five minutes of the text notification going out."
West Chicago has run vaccination clinics twice this year. First for staff, then for their older students.
"We're one of the biggest buildings in West Chicago and we're really good at getting them in and getting them out and getting them what they need," said Dr. Will Dwyer, principal, West Chicago Community High School.
"We've tried to make it as easy as a process as possible," said Jenna Windt, dean of students, West Chicago Community High School. "We have every form in English and Spanish. Our parents are so grateful for the opportunity that they can send their kids here, get it during the school day and know they're taken care of."
Francis W. Parker School in Lincoln Park, on the corner of Clark Street and Webster Avenue, is gearing up to host a series of vaccination clinics open to all Chicago children ages 12 to 18, accompanied by a parent.
Alderman Michele Smith, with the 43rd Ward, said she collaborated with Francis Parker School administrators and parents who are doctors to organize a series of vaccination clinics that will start this weekend at the school. Smith helped put the plan together in anticipation of the CDC's authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for that age group.
"It's for any Chicago child from the age of 12 to 18, and if a parent or guardian doesn't have a vaccine, when they bring the child in, it will be offered to them as well," Smith said.
Alderman Smith said the plan is to vaccinate about 1,000 kids this Saturday and Sunday in Parker's gym.
That will be the first of at least five clinics spread out over several weekends, by appointment only, at that location.
"We had a vaccination event for over age 16, for everyone, and we had strong demand for age 16, so we think that we're really gonna have strong demand for this," Smith said.
Parent Andre Day applauded the school and the alderman for making the Parker clinic open to everyone.
"This school is pretty in tune with the community, you know, so they're very good at listening to suggestions to help better the community," Day said.
Meanwhile, Walgreens is planning to offer shots to younger teenagers at its pharmacies.
The Deerfield-based company said it's working with more than 1,000 school districts across the country offering vaccinations to school children in their stores and clinics.
"The roll out for kids is going to be exactly like we have done for adults," said Dr. Kevin Ban, chief medical officer at Walgreens.