By Meredith Barack

CHICAGO (CBS) —   There are new rules about who can get the COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois.

Anyone 16 and older can now get a shot anywhere in the state, except for Chicago. But getting that shot may not be as easy as you think.

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CBS 2’s Meredith Barack reports from Oak Park where a mom and group of teens are working hard to find vaccines for high schoolers.

The stadium at Oak Park and River Forest High School is empty right now, but many are hopeful these stands will soon be filled for graduation, football games and just normalcy in general very soon.

“The teenagers are the spreaders. We need to get these kids vaccinated.”

Michelle Hess, her daughter Maia, and Maia’s friends are on a mission.

“We’ve got 200 to 300 responses on our spreadsheet and we just started working our way through the list making the at-risk kids the priority,” said Michelle Hess.

But finding an appointment for the newly eligible age group comes with its own unique set of challenges.

“With the 16 and 17 year olds, it’s finding that Pfizer. And it’s not always easy to do,” said Oak Park parent Kelly Fleming.

“The problem is that some websites, it’s not clear which vaccine it is,” said Michelle Hess.

 

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And once that Pfizer appointment is found and booked…

“It’s difficult for parents because they have to accompany their minors with them,” said Michelle Hess. “And so sometimes, depending on their schedule, they can’t go until after work or that sort of thing. So I would say that has been a little bit of a bump in our road.”

Maia said her friends and classmates have been patient-but they’re ready for their turn.

“They want life to go back to normal especially kids in my grade who missed out on so much of their high school experience,” said Maia Hess. “They’re very eager to get their appointments.”

For some of the teens, it goes beyond missing out on prom, sports, or senior year shenanigans.

“I just wanted to see my grandma,” said  J.P. Rhettberg. “Like I hadn’t hugged my grandma or seen her without a mask in a year and a half.”

As more and more appointments are made, they’re hopeful they are one step closer to seeing crowds on campus come next fall.

“These kids deserve to be able to live normal lives again and the impact on them emotionally, the depression, the anxiety of not being able to see their friends, not step foot in the school building,” said Michelle Hess.

Michelle and Maia said they’ve found a lot of success in sending teens and their parents to Gary, Indiana’s FEMA-run site.

There are no residency requirements, and they’ve found making those appointments is very easy.

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Meredith Barack