CHAMPAIGN — In less than two weeks, thousands of local area teens will become eligible for one type of COVID-19 vaccine, and at least some will be offered a chance to get their shots at school.
And some may be directed — just as adults in their counties have been — to area vaccine clinics.
Under the latest state guidelines, everyone in Illinois age 16 and up will become eligible for the vaccine starting April 12, though just one of the three in circulation — the one made by Pfizer/BioNTech — is authorized for use in those who are 16 and 17 years old.
Monticello Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said plans are being made with the DeWitt Piatt Bi-County Health Department for vaccinating eligible high school students, but a date hasn’t been set yet.
Monticello High School would have about 300 teens old enough to receive the vaccine, and it’s likely not all of them will want to receive it, Zimmerman said.
Plans are to conduct the vaccinations during a school day, setting up six or seven stations and pulling students out of class about 20 at a time so as to maintain safe social distancing, he said.
The Douglas County Health Department has contacted high schools in that county, asking them to find out from parents how many teens would be interested in receiving the Pfizer vaccine, according to health department spokeswoman Summer Phillips.
Where and when those vaccinations would be given is still undetermined.
It’s likely a special vaccine clinic for that age group would be offered on a weekend or evening sometime in mid-April, pending availability, Phillips said.
Arcola Superintendent Tom Mulligan said information has been sent to students’ homes at the request of the health department to determine how much interest there would be in vaccinations if they become available.
The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District said there are about 5,000 youths ages 16 and 17 in Champaign County, and about 500 of them have already been vaccinated as they became eligible, according to Deputy Administrator Awais Vaid.
The health district has requested 4,500 Pfizer doses that may come from a state allocation for teen vaccinations, Vaid said. But with demand for all COVID-19 vaccines still outpacing supply, he said, he doesn’t know how many doses Champaign County would receive.
Pending vaccine availability, he said, eligible teens in Champaign County would likely be vaccinated at a designated clinic site.
And if there isn’t a separate supply of vaccine for teens, Vaid said, it wouldn’t be fair to put a healthy teen before an older adult with health conditions who’s been waiting for a vaccine for weeks.
St. Joseph-Ogden High School Superintendent Brian Brooks said school officials haven’t discussed vaccines for students yet.
The school district would be open to on-site vaccinations, he said, but he’s guessing the health district will want to do vaccinations for teens at a designated vaccine site for that age group.
Some high school students who work in day care centers have already been vaccinated, Brooks said. He doesn’t know how many others will be interested when the vaccine becomes available, he said, “but I would anticipate a fairly large number.”
Rantoul Township High School Superintendent Scott Amerio and Tolono Superintendent Andrew Larson also said their districts haven’t yet discussed vaccines for high school students who will be eligible.
Mahomet-Seymour Superintendent Lindsey Hall said parents will be encouraged to take their teens for a vaccination when they become eligible.
But she sees vaccinations as more of a factor driving school decisions next year rather than this year — given that the school year would be about over by the time teens get both shots and wait two weeks after that for immunity to kick in.