SALT LAKE CITY — The start of school is just a couple of weeks away for most Utah families, and now pediatricians are also stressing the importance of students getting the COVID-19 shots and other immunizations before they head back to school.
With a rise in COVID-19 cases as the delta variant spreads, Dr. Neal Davis with Intermountain Healthcare says getting vaccinated against COVID-19 should be at the top of your back-to-school list for those 12 and up. "If you get the vaccine now, you can get that second dose in three weeks and you're off to a really good start for the school year," he said.
If your child isn't old enough to get vaccinated yet, Davis urges people to be cautious. "I would do what we know — have the kids wear masks, be smart about how we're interacting and things will go well," he said.
Despite COVID burnout, Davis stands by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent guidelines asking both vaccinated students and adults to mask up at school and indoor areas. "I think we all have the fatigue of being kind of told what we need to do. And yet, it's super important that we recognize what's going on and this variant is more aggressive," Davis said.
Davis encourages people to take their questions and concerns to their physicians. "People have questions, and they need to feel respected. And I think that's so important to listen, to understand, to respect the concerns, to offer the information that we have," he said.
Though he recognizes and respects others' concerns, he reassures people about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Getting the vaccine really does provide peace of mind. It is effective, it's very effective, 90% effective against the delta variant for vaccines. That is outstanding," Davis said. "There are millions and millions of people that have gotten the vaccine, and we know it works and helps prevent — especially hospitalizations and death — severe consequences from COVID."
In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, Davis encourages parents to make sure their children are up to date on other back-to-school vaccinations. He says we saw a dip in other childhood immunizations during the pandemic. "Summer's a great time to do it. See your child's doctor, get in there and figure out what they need and let's stay caught up," he said.
Davis says the last thing we need is a local epidemic on top of a pandemic. "We are so lucky to be able to have vaccines that protect us against things like polio, you know, where kids were paralyzed or unable to move and do things that kids need to do," he said.
Between shots and masks, Davis reminds us that children are adaptable and strong. "Kids are resilient and … often they do lead us, and so I think I think they're going to do well," he said. "If our whole society did as well as our elementary schools, we would be in a really good spot."
Davis says many pediatric clinics are now administering COVID-19 vaccines. He also says it's safe to get the COVID vaccination the same day as other immunizations. The CDC previously recommended COVID-19 vaccines be administered alone allowing for at least 14 days before or after administration of other vaccines. This is no longer a concern.