On the rise: Could shots for those 12 and up stop the spread among children?

Keeping Schools Safe

TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) – Children as young as 12 years old could soon be lining up for their COVID shot following approval by the FDA.

In recent months, Pfizer has conducted a number of clinical trials regarding the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in those aged 12 to 15. Currently, only those 16 and up can get the vaccine but following approval that could all change. Approval is expected to happen by next week.

Since vaccinations began, officials with the Sullivan County Regional Health Department have reported a decrease in spread among adults and an increase in the virus in children. As of Tuesday, Dr. Stephen May, the Sullivan County Regional medical director, said they’ve seen an 18% increase of cases in the 10-20 age group.

He said opening vaccines up to those 12 to 15 would further help stop the spread. “That would affect the fastest-growing group that we’ve got with the active disease also, this would make it very convenient, especially for contact tracing and working with our ball teams, sports teams, and schools,” said Dr. May.

It’s an increase being seen across county lines. Johnson City Schools along with Bristol, Virginia Public Schools have reported increases among students in middle and high school.

“We do have 12 students currently who have COVID and we also have an additional 12 students who are in quarantine because they’ve had a close contact,” said Bristol Public Schools Superintendent, Keith Perrigan.

“We’ve definitely seen it in our schools, we update our dashboard three times a week on our website to keep the public aware of the number of isolation groups we have and the number in quarantine. We really see it across all age groups so we see it from our elementary schools up to our high schools,” said Johnson City Schools Director of Coordinated School Health, Jennifer Norton.

Having been open for in-person learning since mid-August, Keith Perrigan said vaccinations have played a big part in actually staying open.

Perrigan said as soon as vaccines were available for staff and students above 16 they offered them and he hopes to do the same pending Pfizer’s approval for those ages 12 to 15.

“The impact that vaccines have on our ability to continue to provide in-person instruction is tremendous so we will do everything that we can as soon as it’s offered to get as many students as possible vaccinated,” he said.

Perrigan told News Channel 11 about 15% of eligible students have taken the shot. He understands it’s a personal decision but guarantees the vaccine will be available for anyone who wants it in their school system.

“We’ve already contacted the Mount Rogers Health District and asked to be placed at the top of the list whenever they provide those vaccines and we’ll do vaccination clinics both at our middle school and our high schools because that age group falls into both of those schools,” Perrigan said.

With vaccination among more students, could come fewer restrictions. “They would be exempt from any quarantine if they have an associated exposure and then, if they are in fully vaccinated groups, they can drop the mask,” said Dr. May.

Jennifer Norton with Johnson City Schools encourages parents on the fence about vaccinating their child to speak with their pediatrician regarding the vaccine.

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