KCUR: How Can Missouri Stop Its COVID Surge? Vaccinate More Teenagers
By Alex Smith
This week, COVID-19 hospitalizations in southwest Missouri reached their highest level in the pandemic so far, with the delta variant driving the increase of new infections across the state.
Low vaccination rates in rural areas appear to be a major reason for the surge. But vaccinations for Missourians between the ages of 12-17 remain well below the state average, too.
“Every time we have a new predominant variant circulating in our country, it’s becoming more and more contagious,” says Angela Myers, division director for infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy. “What that means is one person can affect more people.”
The Pfizer vaccine was authorized for use in adolescents as young as 12 in May, and is free and widely available. Healthy adolescents and teens are at low risk for severe COVID illness, but they can transmit the virus to others, even to individuals who are vaccinated in so-called “breakthrough” cases.
Missouri’s teen vaccination rate appears particularly low. Less than 24% of Missourians aged 12-17 had started their vaccination as of July 6, according to a new vaccine equity report produced for the Department of Health and Senior Services.
There's an especially stark divide between Missouri's urban and rural areas. Nearly 30% of urban Missouri teens under 18 had gotten a coronavirus vaccine, compared to fewer than 10% in rural areas.
In Missouri, as in most states, parental consent is required for individuals under 18 to get COVID-19 vaccines. Myers says conversation with parents often focus on fears that safety data on vaccines is lacking.
“We have hundreds of millions of people worldwide that have gotten vaccine,” Myers says. “So we actually have quite a bit of data about how well it actually works, and we’re getting more and more data everyday about how long the immunity is lasting from the vaccine."
Other parents doubt that vaccines are needed for children who have contracted COVID-19, but Myers explains vaccines can make naturally-acquired immunity even stronger.
Read the full article via KCUR
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine at Children's Mercy