Chicago Public Schools closed for Vaccination Awareness Day; clinics held across city

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez get 3rd shot to promote boosters ahead of holidays
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Calling it an investment in the rest of the school year, city leaders hosted a special Vaccination Awareness Day for CPS students with clinics at a number of schools across the city.

Classes were cancelled Friday to facilitate that and city workers were given two hours of paid leave to get their kids vaccinated.

There were some tears and sad faces, and some crying as the kids got their shots. But parents and students who spoke with ABC7 said they left feeling much better, and safer.

"Since they were infants, I've been getting the vaccinations and honestly, I never really thought about what was in those vaccines," said Elizabeth Todd-Breland, a mom and Chicago Board of Education member. "I feel like I know a lot more about the research that went into this. And I've heard a lot more about this vaccine. So I felt ready and honestly, I'm relieved."

Rylee Fernando, 5, fought her fear of shots with her father by her side.

"Been waiting for it for a long time, so I get paranoid with her in school and I know they take measures but you never know. So I am just happy," said Jeff Fernando, father.

Michele Clark Magnet High School was the site of one of more than 20 clinics specifically designed to offer the vaccine on Vaccination Awareness Day.

"We know that there's still work to do, but we are encouraged by the uptick in the number of parents who have seen the importance of making sure that their children get vaccinated even in this short period of time," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

CPS students who are vaccinated will not have to quarantine if exposed at school as long as they are not showing symptoms.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez got his booster shot Friday along with the mayor and first lady to encourage adults to also get theirs with the holidays fast approaching.

"With Christmas coming, it is literally this weekend. This is the magic period for us to be able to do it. And so we wanted to send a strong message," Martinez said.

"We're in a very different place this year because of the vaccine. So still be cautious, but make sure that you are fully vaccinated," said Lightfoot.

Chicago Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she is concerned about a COVID surge after the holidays, which is why she is urging vaccinations and caution.

"But would just encourage people to be extra careful, take a test perhaps at least, before if you yourself are not fully vaccinated and you're going to be gathering with others," she said.

Arwady said that with COVID cases on the rise, getting kids 5-to-11 vaccinated is clearly part of the bigger picture of protecting families over the holidays.

She reassured parents that side effects have been mild among the 5-11 age group.

"Children have generally been complaining about a sore arm. Many kids don't even have that," Arwady said.

Earlier this week, Arwady said getting the shots this week will play a pivotal role in the weeks ahead.
"If we can get a lot of students vaccinated now, if we can got a lot of adults vaccinated and boosted ahead of the holidays, right now is the time to do that," Dr. Arwady said.

The Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium offered free admission Friday and Park District facilities also offered activities for kids to keep them busy.
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