By Vivian Kaleta, Copy Editor
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5-11 on November 2. After the sign off, the CDC allowed providers to begin vaccinating newly eligible children as soon as possible. In response, the City of Chicago closed schools to the district’s 330,000 students on November 12 for “Vaccination Awareness Day” in effort to increase vaccination. More than 6,600 Chicago students received the vaccine that day, 5,849 being children 5 to 11 years old. 13,000 more students got doses the following weekend.
When asked about his own children, Mr. Menon, a math teacher at Payton, expressed the surprising relief he felt after they received their first dose, “Right after they got vaccinated, I didn’t realize how stressful this [pandemic] was. I just got used to how stressful everything was. But as soon as they got vaccinated there was a moment of clarity…like a weight off [my] shoulders.”
Since the 2021-22 school year began, there have been 2,644 reported positive cases from CPS students and 734 from adults. As schools approach Thanksgiving break, cases have recently spiked with the average number of youth cases, ages 0-17, rising from 628 a day to 1,020, equating to a 62% increase. Cases are nearing the peak level of the fall 2021 surge for youth cases, which was an average of 1,228 a day, recorded on September 4, in the early weeks of children returning to classes. Currently, unvaccinated teenagers continue to have the highest COVID case rate in Chicago with a 71% rise in cases for ages 12-17 within the last two weeks. The Illinois Department of Public Health expressed concerns over the spike especially with cold months ahead.
Since vaccines were made available to children, officials said white families have lined up for the shot first. But on Vaccination Day, Black and Latinx children were more likely to get the shot compared to the first eight days of eligibility. Although Vaccination Day increased vaccination among children, much of Chicago is still unvaccinated. CPS has not released data on how many of the district’s students are vaccinated but overall vaccination rates are spread unevenly across Chicago with disadvantaged zip codes having smaller vaccinated populations. With Winter Break coming up, Americans hope that the pandemic won’t make its way into the holiday season.