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Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

B-N pediatrician says omicron should change how parents think about getting kids vaccinated

Emily Bollinger
The McLean County Health Department will host three COVID vaccine clinics in the coming week for kids ages 5 to 11.

A Bloomington-Normal pediatrician says there’s a compelling new reason for parents to consider getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19.

Some parents have questioned its necessity, given that children were generally less likely to suffer severe illness from COVID early on. Dr. Aaron Traeger with Carle Health said that logic was understandable – but the virus has changed and so does parents’ thinking about the vaccine.

There is some emerging evidence that the omicron variant is hitting kids harder, Traeger said in a new edition of WGLT’s Sound Health series. That science echoes what Traeger is seeing from families in his own office.

Aaron Traeger
Dr. Aaron Traeger is a pediatrician with Carle Health.

“These kids are pretty darn sick. They are not just a runny nose,” he said. “We’re seeing much more of the fevers lasting for days. We’re seeing the kids with body aches, who are acting much more ill. And we’re seeing the increased hospitalizations. Even the younger kids—the babies and stuff—we’re getting some positives that are causing some pretty significant issues, including hospitalizations.”

Only 20.7% of children ages 5 to 11 in McLean County are fully vaccinated, far below other age groups, according to the McLean County Health Department.

That question of necessity is a major driver, Traeger said. Another is that parents who are not vaccinated are unlikely to get their kids vaccinated.

“That’s a little disappointing,” Traeger said. “The vaccine is very safe, and very effective, and very effective at reducing serious issues from COVID—reducing hospitalizations and death and all these other things. I wish more people were vaccinating themselves, so that way kids wouldn’t necessarily have to be vaccinated for these things.”

Traeger said now is a good time to start a conversation with your kids’ doctor, or your own doctor, about the vaccine. Traeger said many ask if it’s safe. He tells them: Yes, it is.

“If I did not believe that, then my three kids (ages 7, 11, and 13) would not have gotten the vaccine,” Traeger said.

He added: “Everybody has a date with COVID. They really do. You’re going to be exposed to this thing. You’re probably gonna get it. And you want to be as prepared as you possibly can be for that. One of the best ways to be prepared is to make sure you’re vaccinated.”

The McLean County Health Department will host three COVID vaccine clinics in the coming week for kids ages 5 to 11:

  • Monday, Jan. 24, from 3-6 p.m. at Grossinger Motors Arena, Bloomington
  • Tuesday, Jan. 25, from 1-3 p.m. at Grossinger Motors Arena, Bloomington
  • Monday, Jan. 31, from 3-6 p.m. at Grossinger Motors Arena, Bloomington
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