BENTON HARBOR — Berrien County health officials are urging parents of adolescents 12 years and older to have them get the COVID-19 vaccine before the start of the next school year.
“It is important to send students back to the classroom with the safe, effective protection the COVID-19 vaccine provides,” officials wrote in a July 29 news release.
The Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland are teaming up to address lingering hesitancies and answer parent questions about COVID-19 vaccines.
Medical experts from the two entities will host a Facebook Live discussion, “COVID-19 Vaccines and Kids,” streamed at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“Getting your child vaccinated for COVID-19 is a big decision and it’s understandable that parents have questions,” Dr. Anne Dudley, pediatrician at Spectrum Health Lakeland, said in the news release. “As a pediatrician, I encourage all my patients age 12 and older to get vaccinated. The vaccine has been used under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history and is proven to provide safe and effective protection against COVID-19.”
Currently, no COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children younger than 12. Clinical trials to test the efficacy and safety of the vaccines in younger children are underway, and a vaccine for younger children could become available as early as late fall.
Across the United States, about 38 percent of adolescents ages 12-17 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to date. In Berrien County, about 30 percent of this same age group has initiated vaccination, according to the news release.
Students who are vaccinated next school year would not have to quarantine if identified as a close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, according to current Centers for Disease Control recommendations.
“We all know that in-person learning is the best place for kids to develop academically, grow in social skills, and build emotional resilience,” Dr. Rex Cabaltica, medical director for the BCHD, said in the news release. “Our goal is to protect this ability to attend school in person for as many kids as possible during this upcoming school year.”