Unvaccinated kids 12-17 need first dose by next Tuesday
With just over one-third of 12- to 17-year-olds fully vaccinated, Niagara Region public health is pushing hard for young people to get their shots before school resumes in September.
Because of the break needed between Pfizer shots one and two, unvaccinated youth are being urged to get their first jab in the next few days.
Young people who have received their first Pfizer shot must wait at least 21 days before their second dose.
That means teens need to get their first one by next Tuesday to be able to get their second dose by Aug. 24 and have full protection when school resumes.
“This week is the critical week for students to get their first dose and have enough time to get their second dose and have full immunity by the start of school,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji told The Lake Report.
“The single most valuable thing to do to stay safe in schools is to get fully vaccinated,” he said.
As of Wednesday, July 28, only 37 per cent of those 12 to 17 had received two doses, while 56 per cent had one shot. Overall in Niagara 58.5 per cent have had two doses and 69.7 per cent have a single shot.
“Youth still have a way to go to reach the same level of protection as adults in Niagara,” public health spokesperson Courtney Westerhof said in a news release.
Saying it’s “vax to school time,” the region wants students to be fully vaccinated for the first day of school on Sept. 7.
Full protection against COVID-19 infection comes two weeks after the second dose is received, “so we are urging students 12 years and older to receive their vaccines as soon as possible,” Westerhof said.
Public health is making it easy for young people to get the jab, noting they can walk in to any regional public health COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. to get vaccinated.
A walk-in clinic is scheduled at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Centre on Friday, July 30.
Hirji predicted that cases in the region will increase – soon.
“I think it is almost certain we will see cases begin to rise, possibly as early as mid-August. How large that rise will be is going to be dependent on how much people are vaccinated by then. If people are not vaccinated, a large wave is much more likely,” he said.
He expects schools will be a “primary setting” for outbreaks.
Schools will have a large concentration of unvaccinated people since children under 12 can’t yet get a shot – and vaccine uptake for those over 12 is likely going to be below average, he said.
He estimated that “95 per cent or higher vaccine coverage” will be needed to have a “herd immunity” level of vaccination.
“That obviously won’t be possible in elementary schools where most students won’t be eligible for vaccination yet. It will be hard to get that high in high schools,” he added.
Children do die from COVID-19, just not at the same frequency as older persons, Hirji said.
Statistics from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that among those under age 19 across the country there have been 14 deaths, 164 children were treated for COVID in ICUs and 1,399 children were hospitalized, he said.
“These numbers would likely be higher if students hadn’t been forced to stay at home, but had been in schools, in sports, and in other extracurricular activities this past year,” Hirji said.
“As students return to these activities this fall, I worry unvaccinated students could be at risk for hospitalization, ICU admission, and in very rare cases, death.”
Besides public health walk-in locations, young people can also book an appointment online through the provincial portal at Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by calling the provincial booking system at 1-833-943-3900. A full schedule of clinics is listed on the region’s website.
Youth can also find a pharmacy in their neighbourhood administering Pfizer by visiting covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations.
Public health also suggested young people to check out @REACTniagara on Instagram to see health messages from Niagara teens who have got the shot.