BELLEVILLE — As vaccinations continue throughout the U.S., eligibility is expanding to include teenagers. In the metro-east, Madison and St. Clair counties are vaccinating anyone 16 years of age or older in response to new state guidelines.
Can your child get vaccinated? Are vaccines safe for children and when will younger children be eligible?
Here are answers to these questions and more:
Getting a teenager vaccinated
Q: How old do you have to be to get a vaccination?
Illinois announced recently it would begin allowing counties to vaccinate anyone 16 years of age or older in an effort to fight a feared resurgence of COVID-19 in the state.
Expanding eligibility was part of "aggressive action" to address early signs of a possible resurgence of COVID-19, particularly in the northern region of Illinois, allowing counties that have the capacity to further expand vaccine eligibility ahead of schedule.
Q: What does my child need to get vaccinated?
A: To schedule a vaccination appointment for your child in St. Clair County, visit www.co.st-clair.il.us/departments/health-department. To schedule vaccination appointments in Madison County visit, www.co.madison.il.us/departments/health/index.
To receive their vaccination, 16-year-olds must have a parent or guardian present with identification or guardian documentation.
Q: Which vaccine can my teenager receive? When will younger people be eligible?
A: Currently people who are 16 and 17 years old can only receive the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccination. It is the only vaccination that has been approved for teenagers under the age of 18 in Illinois.
Anyone 18 years or older can receive any of the USDA-approved vaccines, which include Pfizer, Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson Jannsen vaccines.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has not commented on when people younger than 16 years old will be eligible for vaccination.
Studies have been ongoing on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines on younger people.
Pfizer recently said data from vaccine trials showed a 100% efficacy and a "robust antibody response" in people 12 to 15 years old. A similar trial with 2,260 participants 17-25 years old had even better results.
Pfizer officials say they are still doing trials for children 11 years old and younger, ranging down to infants around 6 months old, but early studies have shown promising results.
Q: Who is eligible for vaccination as of now?
A: That still largely depends on which county you live in. Some counties allow everyone 16 or older make appointments, others have not. Check with your county health department to find out if you're eligible to be vaccinated.
If your county isn't currently offering vaccinations to the population you fall under, you can get vaccinated in St. Clair County. The county announced recently they are vaccinating anyone who works or lives in Illinois, regardless of what county they live or work in. You can sign up to be vaccinated in St. Clair County here: www.co.st-clair.il.us/departments/health-department.
How long can I expect to be protected from COVID-19?
Q: How long do the vaccines last?
A: Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they don't know precisely how long immunity from COVID-19 will last after a person is fully vaccinated. However, they have said you'll have "vaccine-induced protection" for a minimum of three months.
That doesn't mean your vaccine will lose its effectiveness after 90 days, but is the only scientifically confirmed amount of time Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer have evaluated through their vaccine trials. As those trials continue, the vaccine's lifespan is expected to lengthen.
Pfizer recently announced its vaccines remain "highly effective" six months after the second dose. Officials said if you received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination your vaccine will remain more than 91% effective against COVID-19 six months after the second dose and indicated that time span could be lengthened as studies continue.