MURRAY — A couple of Utah school districts have started giving high school students, 16 years of age and older, the COVID-19 vaccine, while other districts explored the idea.
A public health expert cited several critical reasons the community needs the teens to roll up their sleeves.
"We need everyone to get us to herd immunity," said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare's medical director of Community Health and Prevention.
Health departments in Summit County and Tooele County began putting on Pfizer vaccine clinics at the high schools for students with parental permission.
Officials with the Canyons School District said they were exploring the idea after a survey was sent out to parents.
Many age-eligible students at Park City High School did their part Monday, getting their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Sheffield said the vaccine was important for teens as it would protect the students themselves from the virus.
"It is definitely something that will be protective for them," said Sheffield.
In Utah, more than 300 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 during the pandemic, and nearly 300 children nationwide have died from complications.
Sheffield said children were vectors of the disease, which means they need to get vaccinated in order to break the transmission of the virus and protect people around them from getting sick.
"We need to get them protected so that they're not passing the disease to those who might be more vulnerable for the illness and its complications," she said.
Utah cannot get to herd immunity, Sheffield said, if children are excluded from the vaccine because the state's population is young. Children represent nearly 30% of the population, compared with only 22% nationwide.
"Because we have so many children in our state, we need their numbers to get us to be collectively preventing the illness from spreading to those who possibly can't get vaccinated, or whose immune systems don't respond as well to the vaccine," Sheffield said.
Pfizer trials have been coming along for younger kids.