Monday marks the last day for eligible Chicago Public Schools students to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in order to be fully vaccinated by the time the school year begins in August.
Students return to CPS classrooms on Aug. 30 this year, per the district's academic calendar.
A person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The only one of the three vaccines currently authorized for emergency use on anyone younger than 18 is the Pfizer vaccine, which is currently available for ages 12 and up.
The two Pfizer doses are administered 21 days apart, so in order to be fully vaccinated by the first day of school, any CPS students between the ages of 12 and 17 would need to get their second dose no later than Aug. 16, after a first dose on July 26.
Chicago's top doctor reminded CPS families of this deadline in a news conference last week, warning that the city has seen average daily case rates double in the previously two weeks and advising anyone who's eligible to get vaccinated but hasn't yet to do so as soon as possible to help prevent further spread of the pandemic.
"Let me remind people that Monday, in terms of deadlines, is also, if you want your child over the age of 12 fully vaccinated by the time CPS starts, Monday is your deadline," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a news conference on Tuesday. "So if you've got a 12-to-17-year-old, remember fully vaccinated means two weeks post your second dose and for 12-to-17-year-olds, Pfizer is the only vaccine that is available, so just a quick deadline thing to shout out there."
Arwady said that less than half of eligible adolescents in Chicago had gotten a first dose of the COVID vaccine and just over a third are fully vaccinated, leading to "operational questions" ahead of the return to classrooms in the fall.
On Thursday, Chicago Public Schools announced that all students and teachers will be required to wear face coverings and social distance while indoors this upcoming academic year, regardless of vaccination status.
"Continuing to require masks will hep make sure those in our school communities who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, which encompasses the majority of our students, remain as safe as possible," CPS said in a letter to students, families and staff.
That policy came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance earlier this month that said vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings.
But on Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics contradicted that guidance in offering its own recommendation that everyone older than age 2 should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when schools reopen in the fall.
CPS launched its COVID-19 vaccination effort earlier this month, transforming three high schools into clinics to inoculate students before the new school year.
The district plans to offer full in-person instruction in the fall and wants to vaccinate as many students as possible before classes begin. District officials said they are “not in a position” to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, but will ask families to submit COVID-19 vaccine documents as is the practice with other vaccinations.
More than 50,000 children under the age of 18 have already been vaccinated in Chicago, according to the city’s Department of Public Health. Roughly 350,000 students attend Chicago Public Schools.