Teen COVID-19 vaccinations play big part in helping US reach herd immunity

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Vaccination rates in Missouri and Kansas are just over 40% and expected to jump as children and adolescents help push us toward herd immunity.

“I like to go to stores with my friends and shopping and hanging out,” 13-year-old Juliana Jamison said.

She was motivated to get vaccinated because she wants to be able to hang out with her friends again after a year of staying home. Her parents were pretty strict about the quarantine.

“I am worried about it, kind of like the peak coming back because everything’s opening up,” said Juliana’s mom Rene Jamison. “So I think, as a parent, what makes me worried is not just about COVID, but it’s just about the impact that it’s having on everyone.”

Medical experts say the fastest way through the pandemic is to reach herd immunity, a goal of 85% vaccination rate. Juliana’s age group plays a big part in that.

“Children make up about 20-23% of the population,” Children’s Mercy Hospital Dr. Jennifer Schuster said. “In order to get the entire population back to some sense of normalcy, being able to do things that we want and enjoy to do, we are going to need to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

Schuster said the most safe and effective way to reach herd immunity is not by contracting the disease but through vaccination.

In the last week since vaccinations have been available to children as young as 12, Children’s Mercy Hospital has done 1,913 vaccinations, and 1,333 of those have been for 12- to 15-year-olds. In total, the hospital has vaccinated 4,313 young people between the ages of 12-21.

“I didn’t realize that my age group was such a big impact, and I’m glad that I got vaccinated so I can help the stop COVID,” Juliana said.

The University of Kansas Health System has also started vaccinating youth with 175 adolescent vaccinations so far.

“With this age group of 12-15, to be able to be vaccinated, it’s one more link in this chain to vaccinate and protect and stop transmission of this disease,” KU Health System’s Dr. Dana Hawkinson said. “So overall, that’s going to be very helpful.”

The KCMO Health Department is having a vaccination clinic Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s open to everyone, and they are hoping parents will bring their children in. No appointment is necessary.

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