A substantially greater share of Evanston residents 16 and up have been vaccinated against COVID-19 than in most of Illinois — but now there’s a new group to be vaccinated — kids from 12 to 15.

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health indicates 94% of Evanston residents 65 and over are fully vaccinated, as are more than half of residents between the ages of 16 and 64.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that many parents — including some of eagerly got their own COVID shots — are reluctant to vaccinate younger children.

Evanstonian Sharon Robinson, a pediatrician with NorthShore University HealthSystem, at a news conference this morning said the pandemic has had a profound negative impact on children and adolescents. That’s why “it is so incredibly important to get them vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

“While children and teens have not been the hardest hit by COVID-19, they now account for almost a quarter of new cases,” Robinson added. “Even those who have not directly contracted the disease have certainly felt its lasting effects in other ways. They have missed out on graduations, birthday celebrations and play dates. Many have experienced the economic burden on their households, food and housing insecurity and the devastating loss of family members. These factors along with the prolonged social isolation have resulted in an unprecedented surge in mental health challenges among our youth.”

“As a Black pediatrician,” Robinson said, “I must call out the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on our Black and Latinx children. Not only are these community members experiencing higher positivity rates, children of Black and Latin descent are more likely to have a greater severity of illness and higher death rates compared to their White counterparts.”

“The ability to immunize children ages 12 and up against COVID-19 marks a giant step forward toward pre-pandemic normalcy with the hope of in-person schooling, playdates, summer camps and graduations.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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