PE CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Health leaders across Central Illinois said they are delighted to finally offer the COVID-19 vaccine to the youngest age group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children under the age of 5 this past Saturday.

More than 13.5 million children in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than 42,000 children have been hospitalized and at least 1,240 children under the age of 18 have died of COVID.

Tazewell County Health Department, or TCHD, will offer Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to children ages six months to four years old at their Tremont location beginning Monday, June 27, and on Mondays moving forward.

“We’ve sacrificed so much for more than two years while trying to keep our families safe from COVID-19 and now we finally have approved vaccines to protect our youngest residents. This is a major step toward getting this pandemic under control,” said TCHD Administrator Amy Fox.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized to be given to kids in this age group in 3 microgram doses, with a 3-week interval between the first two doses, followed by a third dose at least 8 weeks after the second dose.

“It has been a long wait and at times an excruciating one as we watched the rise in hospitalizations nationwide among this young cohort during our most recent COVID surges,” said Angie Phillips, Director of Clinical Services. “I believe families should feel confident that the safety and efficacy of vaccines for this age group were firmly established before approval was considered.”

Vaccination clinics will be held on Mondays at TCHD in Tremont.  Visit TCHD’s website or contact 309-929-0294 to schedule an appointment.

UnityPoint Health is offering the Pfizer vaccine and began vaccinating the age group on Thursday at its UPC Pediatrics at Methodist North Peoria at 2338 W. Van Winkle Way. Tuesday and Thursday appointments are available to patients on who have an established primary care provider at UnityPoint.

Beginning June 30, UnityPoint Health will offer the Pfizer vaccine on Thursdays, by appointment only, at three more locations:

  • UPC Pediatrics at Morton: 1909 N. Morton Ave.
  • Family Medicine Peoria: 815 Main St.
  • UPC Pediatrics at Pekin East: 3591 Griffin Ave.

“We’re certainly thrilled to be able to offer this to our patients and get the vaccination that they need,” said Lori Fuller, director of clinical operations at UnityPoint Health.

Fuller said she expects a surge of appointments during the next few weeks.

“We haven’t had a big surge yet, but I anticipate that we probably will because many parents have been waiting…It’s been long waiting for many parents and I think we’re going to see the effects of…we’ve had a lot of employees absent because of daycare issues and things like kids coming down with COVID and whatnot. So hopefully that will have a positive impact and we’ll see less absenteeism,” she said.

Select Hy-Vee Pharmacy locations are also offering the pediatric vaccines by appointment only. In Central Illinois, the only location offering vaccines for young kids is the Peoria #1 Hy-Vee at 4125 N Sheridan Rd Ste 20, Peoria, IL 61614.

Because Hy-Vee is a retail pharmacy and not a doctor’s office, it is only authorized to vaccinate children ages three and up.

Hy-Vee offers both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the pediatric Moderna vaccine only requires two vaccine doses. The second dose should be administered at least 4 weeks after the first dose

More information about appointments at Hy-Vee locations and vaccines offered can be found at their website.

“All along, we’ve just been looking to provide access to the vaccine. Everyone makes their own decisions about whether or not they want to receive it, but to be able to provide the access, we’re very proud to do that in all of our communities,” said Christina Gayman, assistant vice president of communications at Hy-Vee.

Finally, patients at Carle Health care locations are encouraged to begin scheduling appointments to have children six months and older vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The data is clear that the two available vaccines for this young age group are both safe and effective”, Brent Reifsteck, MD, pediatrician, Carle Medical Director of Children’s Services said. “This age group has the benefit of access to multiple vaccines to prevent illness. COVID is still a risk for these children, even though they don’t experience severe illness as often as adults. These COVID-19 vaccines will offer increased protection for these children.”

Carle patients and community members can schedule an appointment today with their child’s healthcare provider or by calling the hotline at (217) 902-6100. Vaccines for young children will be administered in pediatric offices by Carle clinicians who are experienced in caring for infants and children.

In the Twin Cities, the McLean County Health Department is offering the COVID-19 vaccine by appointment to children under five, but recommends parents check-in with their pediatricians for guidance. Parents can make an appointment by calling the MCHD Children’s Immunization Department at 309-888-5455.

OSF HealthCare does not offer the vaccine yet, but a spokesperson said they hope to be able to offer it soon.