Mississippi’s top doc touts vaccines for children 12 to 15

Published 5:53 am Friday, May 14, 2021

The coronavirus vaccine is now available for children ages 12 to 15 in Mississippi for the first time, a development the state’s top health official told residents he hopes will “shake us out of our complacency” in battling COVID-19.

“I want us all to really sit back and realize that you’re likely either to get the COVID vaccine, or the COVID virus,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Thursday during a virtual briefing with the Department of Health. “And under every circumstance, under every conceivable scenario, you are a thousand-fold, if not a million-fold better off getting the vaccine than contracting COVID.”

The announcement means more than 160,000 residents between the ages of 12 and 15 are now eligible for shots. The vaccine will be available for adolescents under 16 at sites that administer Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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The state is starting their vaccinations of that age group Friday, and some private doctor’s offices are already offering shots to children. Parents must accompany minors to the vaccination site and sign a consent form to allow their child to get a shot.

U.S. regulators earlier this week expanded the use of Pfizer’s vaccine to children as young as 12. The Food and Drug Administration declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. The agency noted there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 16 among kids given dummy shots.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said the pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of Mississippi’s young people. Getting kids vaccinated will help facilitate a return to normalcy when it comes to school, socializing and extracurriculars — activities that are important to kids’ social and emotional growth.

“Now is our opportunity to really get to do things with more normalcy,” Byers said.

Preventing the spread of coronavirus among the state’s younger residents will be a priority in the coming months, Mississippi health officials said.

Byers said the Department of Health is starting an initiative with funding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do on-site coronavirus test in schools. The program will be voluntary for schools to opt into and schools will likely need to get a parent’s consent before testing their child.

Increased testing and vaccinations will make attending school overall safer, officials say. Around 52% of Mississippians said they would get their children vaccinated in a survey of 11,000 residents conducted by the Department of Health.

Around 22,000 kids in the 12 to 17 age group in Mississippi have had coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. At least one has died, according to officials.

As of Thursday, close to 851,000 people in Mississippi are fully vaccinated. The state has a population of around 3 million. The number of weekly vaccinations in the state has been slowly dropping since a peak of 132,042 shots in late February. Just under 46,500 shots were given out last week in Mississippi.