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 on Tuesday, warning that the city has seen average daily case rates double in the past 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. "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 have gotten a first dose of the COVID vaccine and just over a third are fully vaccinated, leading to "operational questions" about what masking rules and other guidelines will be in place for the return to classrooms in the fall.
Her statements 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.
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.
Arwady said the city is in conversations with CPS - the third largest school district in the nation - and other schools in Chicago about masking and guidelines ahead of the new school year.
"What I will tell you is that I was pleased with the CDC guidance that came out around schools. First and foremost, they said, 'We want to show, you know, from a data-driven perspective, children should be in school in person' and I think, you know, this is something that the Chicago Department of Public Health has been really encouraging in a data-driven way for months and months and months and months," she said.
"We continue to talk with CPS and they'll be making an announcement, as will other schools, but we are encouraging, you know, really making sure that we're doing everything we can first and foremost to have parents and guardians feel comfortable about having their children back in school in person to make up some of that learning loss and work on the social and emotional piece that is so critical," Arwady added.
CPS launched its COVID-19 vaccination effort last week, 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.
The district is offering vaccines at three school sites for students and their families.
Chicago Vocational Career Academy, located at 2100 E. 87th St. in Avalon Park will be open Tuesdays. Theodore Roosevelt High School, located at 3436 W. Wilson Ave. in Albany Park will be open Wednesdays and Michele Clark High School at 5101 W. Harrison St. in Austin will be open Thursdays, the district says, with all three locations open on their respective days from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
CPS reminded families that the vaccine is free and health insurance is not required to get vaccinated, nor is proof of citizenship.
The sites will be able to administer 600 doses weekly. The district is also working with hospitals for vaccination events in areas with low vaccination rates and offering the shots at back-to-school events.
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.