DuPage County

DuPage to close mass vaccination clinic as focus shifts to inoculating children

A DuPage County mass vaccination clinic that reopened earlier this month to administer COVID-19 boosters will shut down again as public health officials prepare to distribute pediatric shots once federal regulators give the go-ahead.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Tuesday recommended granting emergency-use authorization for kid-sized doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. The full FDA will next weigh in, followed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The county health department has been planning for the rollout to younger children for months, Executive Director Karen Ayala said. County officials have partnered with Illinois medical associations to encourage pediatricians and family doctors to become providers. School-based clinics also are in the works.

“We are looking to shift our focus fairly dramatically from adults to children to ensure that all kids across the county have access” to vaccines, Ayala said.

County officials intend to offer pediatric vaccine clinics at the department’s public health centers in Wheaton, Lombard and Westmont.

But the health department is tentatively slated to close the large-scale clinic at the county fairgrounds in Wheaton on Nov. 22.

“We agree that probably a mass clinic setting in a gymnasium is probably not the best if you’re looking to pull 3,000 young children together with families and strollers,” Ayala told county board members Tuesday morning.

Since reopening on Oct. 13, the vaccination hub at the fairgrounds has provided 2,049 doses by appointment only, three days a week.

“The availability of COVID-19 vaccines across the community, to provide both initial doses and booster doses, has significantly improved to meet the demand in DuPage County,” a department spokeswoman said in a statement. “With convenient vaccination access for adults and adolescents across a range of health care providers and pharmacies in DuPage County, DCHD can now shift focus to providing vaccinations and increasing access to those age 5-11 years old, once final approvals and policies are in place.”

In DuPage, 613,064 residents, or more than 66% of the county’s total population, are fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nearly 67% of vaccine-eligible children who are 12 to 17 have received at least one dose. Among that age group, 62%, or 45,788 tweens and teenagers, are now fully vaccinated as of Oct. 13.

More than 300 children in DuPage have been hospitalized for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.

Back in June, the county reported a total of just 10 people hospitalized for the virus. On Monday, there were 66. “They’re certainly nothing like they were last winter, but they remain persistently and stubbornly high,” Ayala said of COVID-19 hospital admissions.

Residents ages 19 and younger are “the drivers of most of our cases,” she said.