Homework for parents: Getting students vaccinated

In some schools, vaccination rates are in the teens — or lower — a WBEZ analysis found.

SHARE Homework for parents: Getting students vaccinated
William McDade, 8, gets inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine while his mom Jennifer reads to him after a press conference about COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged five to 11 at Comer Children’s Hospital

An 8-year-old gets the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine while his mom reads to him at Comer Children’s Hospital in Hyde Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Omicron surge is waning, according to the latest assessments of experts — and maybe, just maybe, the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is in sight.

But there’s a missing piece of the puzzle: Too many Chicago Public Schools elementary students, as a recent WBEZ report found, remain unvaccinated.

Parents, please — get your children vaccinated. For their health, and for the sake of their education.

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We cannot be any more direct than that. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness and can help insure that children can safely stay in school instead of joining the 20,000-plus now in quarantine, since only unvaccinated CPS students are required to quarantine after being exposed to the virus.

As WBEZ’s analysis found, the vaccination rate at CPS schools in Austin, West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park is an abysmal one in every 10 students.

Other schools, especially in lower-income Black neighborhoods, aren’t doing much better. Among the Acero Charter Schools network, for instance, several campuses have vaccination rates in the teens. Avalon Park Elementary has a 6% vaccination rate. Bass Elementary in Englewood, 3%. Brownell Elementary in Greater Grand Crossing, 1%. (WBEZ has an online searchable list for readers to check their school’s rate.)

Overall, about a quarter of elementary school children in CPS are fully vaccinated, while another 10% have gotten their first shot. Among high school students, 53% are fully vaccinated.

Majority-white and integrated schools have the highest vaccination rates, followed by Latino schools. Low-income, majority-Black schools are at the bottom.

But this isn’t an editorial about vaccine access, or vaccine hesitancy. Today, it’s a simple plea for parents to take advantage of the opportunities to get children protected.

The state, county and city all offer vaccination programs. CPS runs vaccination clinics at several high schools, is providing mobile clinics at various elementary schools and has school-based health centers that offer the shot. (Go to https://www.cps.edu/services-and-supports/covid-19-resources to find out more.) There’s also Walgreen’s and CVS.

Schools CEO Pedro Martinez told WBEZ he’s “encouraged” that vaccination of elementary students is inching up, but “frustrated” about the slow increase among high schoolers.

Parents, it’s up to you do your part.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

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