Walgreens and CVS will soon be administering COVID vaccines to children under 12 years old, with appointments already being offered as of Wednesday.
Both pharmacy chains announced plans to begin administering shots this weekend.
Late Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final OK for youngsters age 5 to 11 to get kid-size doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
Walgreens said it will begin offering coronavirus vaccinations to children ages 5 to 11 starting Saturday.
"As many families prepare to travel and gather for the holidays, and COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, individuals including children are at high risk to contract and spread COVID-19 and experience more severe symptoms," the Illinois-based pharmacy chain said in a release.
Because the children's doses are smaller and in different containers, the doses must be shipped to both the state and city. Vials of the lower-dose Pfizer vaccine for kids are headed to the Chicago area any day now, health officials say.
Walgreens said it is expecting shipments to arrive "later this week" but appointments for pediatric vaccinations are already available.
They can be made at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, through the Walgreens app or by calling 1-800-Walgreens.
Walgreens said more appointments will be available in the coming weeks as the chain receives additional vaccine.
Meanwhile, CVS said it plans to start offering doses to younger children beginning Sunday.
The chain said its 1,700 locations nationwide, including more than 50 Illinois pharmacies, are already taking appointments as they anticipate vaccine supply to arrive.
CVS noted that parental or legal guardian consent is required, and children must be accompanied by an adult to get their shots.
Appointments can be made online at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app.
“We know many parents have been waiting for the opportunity to vaccinate their young children and are looking for convenient access to a trusted resource for vaccinations,” Dr. Troyen A. Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Health, said in a statement. “Our immunizers have been preparing for this important role, and stand ready to help answer parents’ questions, guide them and their children through the process, and administer the vaccines safely, with kindness and caring.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health said Wednesday that it plans to align with the CDC's recent guidance.
“I encourage parents who may have questions about COVID-19 vaccines for their children to talk with a pediatrician or family doctor,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Medical experts and scientists have reviewed the data, which included clinical trials with more than 3,000 children receiving the vaccine, and have recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children. While most children do not suffer severe COVID-19 illness, some do. We also know children are great transmitters and can unknowingly infect people who could suffer severe illness. We need as many people as possible, including children, to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus and end this pandemic.”