COVID vaccinations begin for kids under 5 in Chicago area; families camp out at suburban pharmacy

BLOOMINGDALE, Ill. (WLS) -- On Monday, the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations for the last group to get CDC approval, infants, toddlers and preschoolers, began in the Chicago area.

Tears from a little one were hard to watch. But in this case, tears brought relief to many parents.

"Very happy and a little sad that my wife didn't take her to this instead of me," said Michael Munie, a parent. "She's our youngest daughter. We have two older ones. They are already vaccinated and boosted and we've just been waiting on her."

Now, the wait is finally over.

"It's a really exciting time for both parents and pediatricians," said La Rabida Children's Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sarah Hoehn.

SEE ALSO | 'We have to protect them': Some determined to get kids under 5 vaccinated, others remain hesitant

On Monday morning, parents wasted no time.

"I am just happy that we're able to put an end to this chapter," said Regan Berg. "For us, it was an easy decision."

La Rabida Hospital in Chicago serves children with special medical needs. The hospital is now awaiting its first shipment to vaccinate its most vulnerable patients.

"We've underestimated some of the risks in terms of how sick kids potentially can get from it," Hoehn said. "They're at much higher risk than others who are getting more severe effects of COVID."

No matter the level of risk, for most parents, any risk for their children is one risk too many.

"There's no magic bullet but it's the right thing to do, so I'm grateful we got to this stage," Munie said.

That's why a small pharmacy and clinic in Bloomingdale has been getting a lot of attention on social media.

Many parents said they drove here after finding the location on parent Facebook groups or on Twitter. The staff there said since they've opened, they've seen picnics in the parking lot and families from as far as Peoria and across state lines from Wisconsin.

Pharmacies like Rana-Reagan in Bloomingdale got their first shipments of the vaccine for younger children early Monday morning. But before the vaccines even arrived at 10:45 a.m., the suburban clinic's vaccine coordinator said there were already families waiting in the parking lot before the pharmacy opened, ready to wait as long as they needed to.

"They were actually ready to wait to wait until 3 p.m., 4 p.m., they said," said Rana-Reagan Pharmacy Vaccine Coordinator Jigna Gandhi. "They had a cute tent, their lunches, snacks, toys and they were just camping out in the car and wait."

Gandhi said as soon as the CDC gave their green light for younger children to get the vaccine, her phone rang non-stop, taking more than 700 calls this past weekend and hundreds more Monday morning. The response so overwhelming and appreciated, the pharmacy doubled their staff today.

They are extending their hours. This clinic normally would have closed around 5:30 p.m., but after getting the enormous response, they planned to stay open a couple hours longer.

Parents have the option of choosing between either Pfizer or Moderna, The FDA said the differences between the two are less than the risks of not getting vaccinated.
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