The Tri-County area opened up universal COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for people ages 16 and older on Monday. While officials say most people should take whichever vaccine is offered to them, 16 and 17-year-olds must be a little choosier.
Only the Pfizer vaccine is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for people under 18. That means the Johnson & Johnson-based rapid response vaccine clinics mobilized by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health to Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, and Fulton counties this week can't be utilized by those younger teens.
Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson said the first port of call for families seeking the Pfizer vaccine should be their health care provider. The area's two major hospital systems are administering most of the region's allocation of Pfizer vaccines.
OSF HealthCare is doing targeted outreach to older teens through their MyChart website, phone, and texts.
An OSF spokesperson said Pfizer vaccine doses administered at clinics in Peoria and Pekin are focused on 16-and 17-year-olds at the direction of the local health departments, and based on contact tracing feedback.
A Peoria City/County Health Department spokesperson said Monday that much of the region's recent COVID-19 surge can still be linked back to "younger populations and those attending sports gatherings," echoing the warnings about rising COVID case counts first issued after St. Patrick's Day.
OSF HealthCare said it also is working with schools to communicate vaccine options and information.
UnityPoint Health is targeting phone messages to the parents of 16-and 17-years-old. The messages have information about the vaccine, and scheduling an appointment.
Both health care systems require a parent or guardian's presence at their teen's vaccine appointment.
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