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Peoria-area children ages 5-11 could get COVID-19 vaccines 'as early as November 8'

Nora Philbin
Hannah Alani
Dr. Nora Philbin is the associate director of pediatrics at UnityPoint Health.

Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson expects Tri-County children ages 5-11 may soon be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The FDA’s advisory committee approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in 5-11-year olds.

“This again is the first step in a multi-step process before we can get that vaccine in the arms of our 5 through 11 year olds,” she said.

Once the vaccine is approved under Emergency Use Authorization, Hendrickson expects the Centers for Disease Control director to give the youth vaccine a final stamp of approval next week.

The county is already "preordering" vaccines for providers in preparation, she said.

"It's going to be a very quick turnaround once that news hits," she said, adding that only 300 vaccines can be ordered at a time per provider based on local census data for 5- to 11-year-olds.

"We're hopeful ... those people that are really eager will be able to get it as early as November 8, if not sooner,” she said.

While it is unlikely that child vaccinations will lead to the immediate removal of school mask mandates, Hendrickson said vaccinated children will likely face a far shorter quarantine period in the event of classroom exposure.

“Masking might not go away immediately,” she said. “We have to get the entire community’s virus levels down for unmasking to happen.”

Dr. Nora Philbin is the associate medical director of pediatrics for UnityPoint Health. She encouraged parents to consider getting their children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated once able to do so.

Of the 1.1 million children nationwide who have contracted COVID-19, Philbin said hundreds have died. More than 5,000 children developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), she said.

Philbin says she’s heard from parents who worry there were “shortcuts” taken to making this vaccine, and that the mRNA technology is “too new,” even though the technology is decades old.

“The vaccines are relatively new,” she said. “The technology is not.”

Philbin also assures parents their concerns about the vaccine’s potential effect on fertility and puberty are so far unfounded.

Lastly, some parents are concerned about the vaccine’s potential of giving their child myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

“It’s a very rare side effect,” Philbin said. “The risk of getting myocarditis is actually higher with COVID-19 infection than what we’ve seen with the COVID-19 vaccines.”

Philbin said hospitals are “pre-ordering” the young child-specific vaccine doses. She expects parents to quickly be able to make appointments once the vaccine receives final approval.

“The plan is to, when were ready, to roll it out through our pediatricians’ office and our in-school health centers. … The mechanics is starting already,” she said. “That’s our plan at UnityPoint.”

Brenda Lee Smith is the director of resource and referral for S.A.L. Child Care Connection.

Peoria County has 33 licensed childcare centers serving over 3,500 children between the ages of 0 (birth) and 12, Smith said. She echoed Philbin in encouraging parents to consider vaccinating their children. Doing so limits spread of COVID-19 in childcare settings.

“We have been through it all,” Smith said. “We have supported all of the other workforces … with the foundation being, maintaining healthy and safe learning environments for young children.”

The state of Illinois is asking all childcare providers to have the first of a 2-dose vaccine series by Dec. 3. A second dose is required by Jan. 3, 2022. Those who are exempt from receiving the vaccine must submit to weekly testing.

The latest local numbers

Active cases of COVID-19 infection dropped from 552 last week to 455 this week. The seven-day rolling average in both the Tri-County region and Peoria County also fell.

Last week, Peoria County saw an average of 33 new cases daily. This week the county saw an average of 25 new cases daily.

While overall cases are falling, the county is seeing an increase in cases among people ages 65 and older.

Hendrickson stressed the importance of receiving a vaccine booster shot. All three vaccines’ boosters are currently available to those 65 and older.

“This is a group that was, early on, a high-risk population that we wanted to get vaccinated quickly,” she said. “Now we need to work with them on getting their boosters so they can maintain that level of immunity as we continue our road to recovery.”

Peoria County hospitals have seven ICU beds in use and 47 non-ICU beds in use. There was one death in the last 24 hours. Seven-day averages for ICU beds and non-ICU beds fell in the last week.

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