Dewan: The importance of childhood COVID-19 vaccinations
Nate Huynh, 9, was among the first few hundred kids who got the COVID-19 vaccine at the Emmanuel Baptist Church on Nov. 3. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

With the 2021-2022 school year well underway, it is wonderful to see students across Santa Clara County learning in-person on school campuses.

Providing a safe school environment for all students and employees continues to be a top priority. The COVID-19 vaccination is one of the most effective strategies to reduce the spread of the virus in our schools. As a community, it is our shared goal for students to have as much continuity with their schooling as possible by promoting health and wellness and reducing absenteeism.  Health experts are reporting an uptick in positive cases as the winter season approaches.

High vaccination rates in a population reduce virus spread and can prevent new variants from emerging. Although we are fortunate to live in a highly-vaccinated community with more than 83% of Santa Clara County residents 12 or older being fully vaccinated, it is concerning that the vaccination rates for youth continue to be lower than for all other age groups in Santa Clara County.

Many parents reported being extremely relieved to learn that their five to 11-year olds are now eligible to receive the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe and widely available. They are effective in reducing infection and preventing serious disease, hospitalization and death.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to keep your child safe and protect them against COVID-19, including the Delta variant,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Education this month. “Kids are being infected with COVID-19, occasionally leading to serious illness and even death in certain cases.”

Clinical trials showed that the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11 and 100% effective in teens ages 12 to 15.  The trials for the 5-to-11 age group included 4,600 children. There were no serious side effects detected.

The pediatric vaccine is given in two doses 21 days apart. The dose is about a third of the amount of the adult dose.

While vaccinated people can contract COVID -19 and spread it, they remain less likely to develop serious illness and spread the disease than unvaccinated persons. Even children who have had COVID-19 should get vaccinated.

California does not yet require the COVID-19 vaccine for students. The vaccine will eventually be required for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in public, charter and private schools, and to all school employees. It will take effect the first semester following the FDA’s full approval of the COVID vaccine for each age group.

Under state law, children at public K-12 schools must already be immunized against 10 serious communicable diseases in order to attend school and child care centers. Once it is fully approved, the COVID-19 vaccine will be added to the list of required vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines for children are available at clinics, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and schools across Santa Clara County. Parents can visit www.sccfreevax.org to find a vaccine appointment and to get more information.

San José Spotlight columnist Mary Ann Dewan is the superintendent of schools for Santa Clara County. She has more than 33 years of experience in the field of education. Her columns appear every third Monday of the month.

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