The Illinois Department of Public Health voiced support Friday for federal health officials' recommendation of COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 5-11 at least five months after their primary vaccination series.
IDPH issued an advisory to Illinois vaccine providers endorsing the booster dose from Pfizer-BioNTech for children ages 5-11, after the emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.
“We encourage every parent or guardian of children five and older to consider a booster vaccination for their eligible child,” said IDPH Director Amaal Tokars. “And if your children have not yet received their primary dose, it’s not too late to start now."
Tokars noted that with coronavirus cases rising throughout the state, those eligible for vaccination and booster shots are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity.
According to IDPH, more than 22 million vaccinations have been administered statewide among children ages 5-11, with more than 40% receiving at least one dose and over 36% fully vaccinated.
In total, more than 76% of Illinoisans have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, while more than 69% is fully vaccinated, data showed. According to the CDC, 52% of the vaccinated population is also boosted.
"Data indicates that the risk of hospitalization and severe outcomes from COVID-19 is much higher for unvaccinated people than for those who are up to date on their vaccinations," IDPH said in a release.
On Thursday, the CDC's panel of independent vaccine experts voted overwhelmingly in favor of boosters for kids in the age group after reviewing and discussing the data during a five-hour public meeting. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the recommendation later in the evening, giving pharmacies, doctors' offices, and other health-care providers the green light to start administering the shots.
The CDC is rolling out boosters for 5- to 11-year-olds even though most of the kids haven't received their first two doses yet, with only 29% of the age group fully vaccinated. Walensky, in a statement Thursday, sought to reassure parents that the shots are safe and encouraged them to get their kids vaccinated.
"Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness," Walensky said. "I encourage parents to keep their children up to date with CDC's COVID-19 vaccine recommendations."
Though COVID is generally less severe in children than adults, more kids ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized during the omicron wave than at any other point during the pandemic, according to CDC data. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 4.8 million kids in the age group have caught COVID, more than 15,000 have been hospitalized and more than 180 have died, according CDC data.
Public health officials are also concerned about children developing long-term health conditions such as long COVID and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, MIS-C for short, a serious condition associated with COVID infection that impacts multiple organ systems.