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Unique challenges anticipated ahead of teens getting vaccinated, UW Health officials say

Published: May. 11, 2021 at 12:28 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 5:27 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As the nation awaits word from health authorities on when kids ages 12 -15 can start getting vaccinated, UW Health officials believe immunizing this group will present some unique challenges.

Dr. Jim Conway, UW Health’s Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist and Medical Director of Immunization Program, said many children are already behind on routine vaccinations, “because of this whole pandemic and people’s reluctance to come into medical facilities and early on our request for them not to come in.”

Getting those shots before the new school year, on top of the COVID-19 vaccine, means many parents have a busy few months ahead.

“Ideally now would be proactively starting to make appointments to get routine vaccines going, so then as vaccine is available and launched in the next few weeks for this age group then they would be eligible and able to get that as well,” recommended Dr. Conway.

Health officials have said you should not get another vaccine for at least 14 days following a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, adding to the importance of planning ahead.

“Parents need to understand that we want their kids protected, they want their kids protected, and we want them to be safe especially when they get back to schools and sports and all the things that kids like to do together and that the best way and the safest way to do that is to have them fully immunized,” said Dr. Conway.

Dr. Conway added that the longer kids remain unvaccinated, the more the general population is put at risk of COVID-19 contraction and transmission, especially with variant cases on the rise.

“We’ve also discovered recently that as we’ve immunized more of the older population that kids are actually a driver of transmission and outbreaks. This week 24% of the positive tests are in kids under the age of 18,” said Dr. Conway.

Dr. Conway said he doesn’t think vaccinating this group of kids will take very long if parents are quick to sign their kids up for an appointment. He believes in Dane County it could be done in a couple of weeks and will give the state and nation a significant boost towards reaching herd immunity.

“There’s 331 million people in the United States. 75 million of them are kids under the age of 18. There’s no way we will get close to full herd immunity without that 22% of our population also having some immunity,” told Dr. Conway.

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