CPS parents, if you haven’t done so yet —please get your children vaccinated

Vaccination rates are increasing, but only 49% of students overall are fully vaccinated. At dozens of schools, the vaccination rate is 10% or fewer.

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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 in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Friday morning, Nov. 5, 2021.

William McDade, 8, gets inoculated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine while his mom, Jennifer, reads to him after a news conference Friday about vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Starting Monday, the 272,000 students and 30,000 staffers in the Chicago Public Schools have the option of taking off their masks in class, like many of their peers elsewhere in the state.

CPS officials earlier this week cited the sharp decline in COVID-19 cases and a pending court ruling as the reasons for their decision to lift the mask mandate, according to the Sun-Times’ Nader Issa.

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CPS also pointed out that vaccination rates for its students ages 12 to 17 are near the national average, and rates are above average for the 5-11 age group.

That is the optimistic take.

The reality is that too many CPS students, especially in South and West Side schools, are still not vaccinated, a recent analysis by WBEZ’s Sarah Karp shows.

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As of late February, 10% or fewer students at nearly 50 schools were fully vaccinated, the analysis found. Overall, only 49% of all CPS students in the district’s nearly 650 schools are fully vaccinated.

The Chicago Teachers Union, which had an agreement with CPS to keep masks in place until the end of the year, is not happy with the move and has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district. Expect ongoing friction between the two sides, which has become the sad norm.

But as these two entities battle it out, parents with unvaccinated children can — must — take a step to help protect their own kids, the CPS community and the general public by ensuring their youngest family members are fully vaccinated.

Americans are still dying from COVID-19. The death toll in the country is creeping toward 1 million.

This winter, unvaccinated youth between the ages of 12 and 17 were six times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Yes, children’s symptoms tend to be less severe and the shot is no guarantee against infection — kids can still get a breakthrough case like the rest of us. But as scientists have said over and over again, the more vaccinations, the better protected we all are.

The World Health Organization wouldn’t have reversed its stance on the need for COVID-19 booster shots Tuesday if the pandemic was no longer a concern.

It is promising that vaccination rates among CPS jumped up between late January and February. But racial disparities remain. The increase in fully vaccinated students was mostly among Asian and Latino students on the North and Northwest sides, while vaccination among Black students remains low.

That needs to change. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it must be said again: Please, get your children fully vaccinated.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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