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An OSF administrator expects greater hesitancy once COVID vaccines become available for younger kids

Virus Outbreak Vaccine Supply
John Locher
Five-to-11-year-olds could become eligible to get the COVID vaccine as early as next week.

As health providers prepare for approval of COVID vaccines for younger children, a hospital administrator in Bloomington is concerned vaccine hesitancy will be even greater.

“I suspect we will probably see not as great a participation for kids 5 to 11 as we did for adults or even adolescent kids,” said Rick Anderson, chief medical officer at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center. “I do think there’s a lot of controversy regarding the vaccine.”

Rick Anderson.jpg
Rick Anderson

Five-to-11-year-olds could become eligible to get the COVID vaccine as early as next week.

Anderson said he believes children should get the vaccine, even if their likelihood of severe illness from contracting the coronavirus is lower. He said there’s greater risk children could spread the virus to adults who may be more susceptible to hospitalization, especially if they are not vaccinated.

An FDA advisory panel which signed off on COVID vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds determined the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks, but Anderson noted there’s no long-term data yet on how it may impact a child’s development. He suspects that will keep some parents get getting their child vaccinated.

“I have to respect their views. It’s certainly their children and their children’s health and I certainly understand that,” he said. “This vaccine is new.”

Anderson recommended parents who have concerns should study the effects vaccines have had historically, but added “it’s going to be difficult to say for certain that there’s going to be no problems.”

In McLean County, 58% of children ages 12-17 are vaccinated and 60% of the adults ages 18-65 are vaccinated.

Kids carrying COVID

Children who are not old enough to get the COVID vaccine make up the largest share of new coronavirus cases in McLean County. The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) reported Wednesday 47 new cases among children younger than 12 in the last week. The second highest age group was people in their 30s (35), followed by people in their 20s (30).

Overall, the county has averaged 31 daily cases in each of the last two weeks, marking a decline from late summer. School-age children make up just over one-fourth of new coronavirus cases in the county.

Seventeen McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 85% of Bloomington-Normal’s intensive care beds are in use.

The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate dropped to 2%. MCHD said 225 McLean County residents are isolating at home.

Vaccine distribution

MCHD public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko said the county does not have a date for when COVID vaccines will be available for 5-to-11-year-olds.

“We are preparing for this to happen quickly, but we also have to keep in mind that this is a different vaccine (dosage) than what is being provided to the age 12+. So manufacturing and shipping are other intangibles that have to be considered,” Manko said.

Manko added the department has been talking with pediatric providers for several weeks in anticipation of the vaccine rollout, in part to get a sense for demand.

“We know that for this age range things might look a little different than what has been done for the other age ranges,” Manko said, adding the county is exploring vaccination clinics in schools, in rural communities and at its Bloomington offices.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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