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Health officials advocating for children to get vaccinated before upcoming school year

SLO County Office of Education
In May, The Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 12 to 15

With COVID19 cases back on the rise, and kids returning to school in a few weeks, health officials are urging parents to get children 12 and older vaccinated. But not every pediatric office has the ability to give the vaccine.

After a year of virtual learning, most children will be stepping back on campus in August. SLO County Public Health Nurse Christine Gaiger said now is the time for parents to get their children 12 and older the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We want our kids back in school doing all the normal things again," Gaiger said. "If we can get the kids vaccinated they are less likely to miss school, and spread it to their classmates, etc.”

The only COVID19 vaccine approved for children is Pfizer, and only a handful of pediatric offices in SLO and Santa Barbara County have approval to administer the vaccine to kids.

Gaiger said pediatric offices may not have the equipment to store the Pfizer vaccine, and that the procedure to get state and local approval can take several weeks.

“The process to apply is tedious," Gaiger said. "So I think they are busy, and maybe can’t take on that extra work load.”

Dr. Laura Herzberg with Community Health Center in Santa Maria said parents have been calling her office trying to figure out where to get their kids the Pfizer shot.

“So we are sending our patients to the pharmacies for the Pfizer vaccine," Herzberg said. "There are a lot of pharmacies doing it, like Sav-On, Vons, CVS, WalMart.”

Herzberg said she also hears from people who are concerned about the safety of the vaccine, with an idea that the vaccine was “rushed.” She says the vaccine isn’t really a new vaccine. Research against coronaviruses more broadly has been in development for about 20 years. 

“So when COVID came out, and it was so deadly," Herzberg said. "Suddenly it became an urgent matter to get this into production — to get it typed to the COVID19 strain and get it out to the people. ”

While the COVID19 vaccine isn’t a requirement for kids to go to public school, Herzberg is also recommending parents to get their kids the required physicals and vaccines needed to attend public school as soon as possible, since appointments become harder to book in the last two weeks before school starts.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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