Record editorial: Now is the time to vaccinate eligible students before school starts
How great these recent weeks have felt in Park City. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we could free ourselves of masks, gather with friends and family and head out to a concert at Deer Valley or the Park Silly Sunday Market.
The trouble is, despite how it might have felt, the pandemic is not in the past. As recent case numbers show, we’re still very much in the heart of it.
The state reported more than 2,000 new cases between Friday and Tuesday. The average number of new cases over the previous week was 622 as of Tuesday, higher than it’s been since the end of February, a week before vaccines were made available to Utahns 50 or older. It’s only 10 daily cases short of where we were one year ago, when vaccines remained only a hope on the horizon.
Health officials have been calling this stage a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” and indeed, nearly all of the COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations have come from those who haven’t had a shot.
But along with the anti-vaxx and vaccine-hesitant crowds, there’s one group with low vaccination rates that doesn’t immediately spring to mind: young people aged 12-15.
In some places, the vaccination rate among this age group is dismal. As of July 20, only 27% of people on the East Side aged 12-15 had received the first dose of the vaccine, according to the Summit County Health Department. On the West Side, that number was 66%. The numbers also show almost no movement from earlier this month.
With the first day in Summit County’s school districts approaching in mid-August, the deadline has already passed for the unvaccinated in that age group to achieve full immunity before classes start. For the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, the only one to have received emergency use authorization for people aged 12-18, the process to become fully immunized takes five weeks.
But it’s not too late — parents should have their 12-and-older children vaccinated as soon as possible to protect them and others from the disease.
Even though the virus has been less dangerous for younger people, not every child escapes unscathed from a bout with COVID. The disease has hospitalized more than 700 Utahns 18 and under since the pandemic began.
Vaccinating may also slow the virus’s spread, as children have proven to be adept transmitters of the disease even if they don’t appear or feel sick. And the closer we get to herd immunity, the less of a chance the virus will have to mutate into a form that can render vaccines ineffective.
Thankfully we live in a place where vaccines are readily available. Let’s take advantage of that. It’s a small measure that could go a long way to stamping out the virus for good.
For information about the vaccine or to receive a dose, head to a pharmacy, check with your doctor or visit coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine.
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