McHenry County ready for youth vaccinations, health department says

Children between ages 5 and 11 are expected to become eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine next week

The McHenry County Department of Health is ready to begin vaccinating children against COVID-19 when the Pfizer vaccine for children receives final approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to happen in days.

At Tuesday’s Board of Health meeting, McHenry County Public Health Nursing Director Susan Karras said the county is ready to roll out the vaccines to children in the 5-to-11-age group when it is approved. She said the department has partnerships and plans lined up to make sure the vaccine is accessible.

“We have been planning way before even anticipating this [approval],” Karras said. “We currently have an estimated 26,800 children in that age population that would be eligible.”

Based on current vaccination rates in the county among adults, Karras estimated about 50% of newly eligible 5- to 11-year-olds will get vaccinated.

With 177,533, or 57.53%, of the county’s 308,570 residents already are fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, vaccinating half of the county’s children would push McHenry County’s vaccination rate to 61.88%.

Distribution of the vaccine in the county will run through multiple channels, but most commonly private institutions. Karras said the county considered establishing a new mass vaccination clinic for children but decided against it based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such a setting would not be best for children.

Instead, Karras said parents should expect to be able to get their children vaccinated through doctor’s offices and pediatric care providers. The county is working with pharmacies as well, but said sometimes policies at individual pharmacies prevent them from administering a vaccine to a child below a certain age. County vaccination locations in Woodstock and Crystal Lake also will help with distribution.

With adults, the county is working to make additional booster shots available for people eligible for their third shot of Pfizer and Moderna, and second shots of Johnson & Johnson vaccines and are working on clinics to give those away, Karras said.

The county still is dealing with high transmission rates of the virus as well. The age groups of 10- to 14-year-olds and 15- to 19-years-olds currently are seeing the highest rate of transmission, Karras said.

“All age groups are seeing an increase, but those are the top two,” she said.

The 12-to-17-age group is still the least vaccinated in the county, Karras said, with 50% of those in the group fully vaccinated. Among the 18-to-64-age group, 65% are vaccinated and 88% of those age 65 and older are vaccinated.

Ben Szalinski

Ben Szalinski

Ben reports on local news in Harvard, Marengo, Huntley and Lake in the Hills along with the McHenry County Board. He graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield Public Affairs Reporting program in 2021. Ben is originally from Mundelein and enjoys outdoor activities and spending time with friends and family.