HEALTH NEWS: Chicago’s One Health Center Leads Kid Covid Shots

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News


CHICAGO – As the medical assistant prepared the syringe and put on rubber gloves, Victoria Macias (5 years old) shook her head and closed her eyes. She was wearing a Minnie Mouse pink mask and white blouse.

“It is not going to hurt. OK? Alondra, her older sister, said, “I’ll hold you hand, I will hold your hand.” “Deep breath, deep breath.”

Rachel Blancas, Victoria’s medical assistant poked Victoria’s left side for about one second. Victoria opened her eyes. And with that, the Macias sisters were among the first 5- to 11-year-olds to get the covid-19 vaccine in the Midwest’s largest city.

Maria Lopez, their mom, took them to the southwest side of Chicago last Thursday, in order to visit the mass immunization station. “They have gotten every other vaccine available, so why not this one?” said Lopez, 43, a real-estate broker.

Esperanza Health Centers, a nonprofit health provider that is operating the site, has been the top pediatric covid vaccine provider in Chicago, according to the city’s Department of Public Health, administering about 10,000 immunizations to 12- to 17-year-olds. Now that the Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for kids ages 5-11, the organization’s efforts may provide lessons for other places in the U.S. that have struggled to vaccinate children.

“People trust us,” stated Veronica Flores (manager of covid response at Esperanza), who has five clinics that treat patients without regard to their insurance status or immigration status. “When the pandemic began, we were among the first to test .”


She noted that Esperanza was responsible at one time for more than half the covid tests performed in the city. The federally qualified health center’s patient population, which is about 90% Hispanic, has doubled in the wake of covid.

Every person who works with patients at Esperanza speaks English. The immunization site has extended hours and is open five days a week, including to people without appointments. Patients can even get their vaccines via Uber.

If parents or guardians have any questions or concerns regarding the vaccine for children, Esperanza can connect them with one of its doctors.

Dr. Mark Minier, pediatric medical director, seeks to reassure patients, telling them the shot, which is given at a lower dose than for teens and adults, has been found to be both safe and effective for 5- to 11-year-olds. Side effects that may occur are headaches, fatigue, and pain at the injection site. These side effects can last for a few days. He reminds them that the virus can also be transmitted to children.

“Around 2 million kids between 5 and 11 years old have been diagnosed with covid, and there’s been about 170 deaths,” Minier said. Minier said, “It’s still too many. If there is something that could help to prevent death or other morbidity in children for covid, then it should be .”

Cynthia Galvan, a medical assistant at Esperanza who lives nearby, brought her 10-year-old son, Andres, to get the shot Thursday. She hopes it will ensure her family has a better Thanksgiving than last year, when several of her relatives were sick with covid-19.

“Everyone at home was already vaccinated, except him,” said Cynthia, 34. “There’s 10 of us.”

Chicago’s vaccination rate of 58.2% for 12- to 17-year-olds is higher than the national average of about 50%, largely because of the work of community health centers like Esperanza, said city Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. They are familiar with local cultures and languages, as well as the types of places where everyone is likely to receive immunizations.

” We know that the most important predictor of whether a child receives a vaccine is whether their parent or guardian has been vaccinated,” Arwady stated.

She still worries about the estimated 750,000 residents of the city without immunity to covid. She is concerned about the possibility of outbreaks among young black Chicagoans, who have lacked the vaccine as compared to other groups.

” Your immune system will learn its lesson, and it will probably do so over the next few weeks,” Arwady stated. “So you can choose to get vaccinated, or take your chances of being infected .”


The city is working to increase vaccine uptake by offering $100 gift cards, administering free shots at home to anyone who wants them, and giving all public school kids the day off this Friday to get immunized.

Last week, Esperanza Health Centers texted the families of each of its roughly 8,000 patients ages 5 to 11 to let their parents know the vaccine was available. Wednesday morning was the first day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final OK HTML1. The organization began giving shots to children younger than 5 years old. In three weeks, they will begin giving second doses.

“I don’t like shots,” Benicio Decker (7 years old) said as he played on his iPad in the waiting area of the clinic. “I only like shots when we get icecream after .”


But Chicago’s second grader stated that he would tolerate some discomfort “because i want to protect my family, myself, my friends and my teacher .”

Benicio Decker holds tight to his favorite stuffed animal, “Bat Bear,” as medical assistant Rachel Blancas gives him a covid vaccine Nov. 4 at a mass clinic sponsored by Esperanza Health Centers in Chicago. (Giles Bruce for KHN)

On the brisk fall afternoon, families with young kids streamed in and out of the site, a 23,000-square-foot former gym with exposed ventilation, hanging fluorescent lights and a blue-speckled rubber floor. The children took pictures of themselves in front the balloon-covered backdrops, which were astronaut-themed and featured Disney songs.

“They do a great job of making information available where people are,” said Benicio’s mom, Esmie De Maria, 39. They have flyers at the grocery store, restaurants, and laundromats. They don’t expect people to come to .”

Esperanza also has done pop-up vaccination clinics in local parks and schools.

De Maria stated that she did not encounter waitlists at the health center as she had at other locations in the city. Even enlisted the help of the health center to give vaccine workshops to her colleagues in a local organization.

Esperanza, a trust institution in a largely Hispanic area of the city, De Maria stated. The name of the health center means “hope” and is located in the Spanish-language neighborhood. In Chicago and nationwide, Latinos have been less likely than whites and Asians to be immunized against the coronavirus, though that gap has been closing.

“People of color have every right, historically, to be wary of vaccinations,” said De Maria, noting that many women in her ancestral home of Puerto Rico were coerced into being sterilized during the 20th century. It’s in our DNA to be skeptical

She said that she hopes everyone will get immunized for the benefit of the entire community. She said, gesturing towards Benicio, “This isn’t just for him.”

Benicio was told by Blancas, the medical aid, that the shot would feel a bit like a mosquito bite. “You are being brave. His mom said, “You’re earning that ice-cream.”

After Blancas had inserted the needle into Benicio’s arm, the boy held on to his Batman teddy bear and let out a quiet “Ow.” He later said that he felt a slight pinch.

“You are officially vaccinated,” his mother told him, as he sat playing with her phone in the observation area for 15 minutes to make sure he didn’t have any dangerous allergic reactions. He’ll be the first child at his school to get vaccinated. He’s a superhero .”

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