Utah Doctors Urge Eligible Students To Get Vaccinated Before School Returns

Jul 16, 2021, 5:39 PM | Updated: 10:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — One month before children return to school, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Utah and across the country. Pediatricians from University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare urged parents to get eligible children vaccinated, if they haven’t already.

More than a third of those students are ahead of the curve. 

Utah children in most of our school districts return to school in five weeks. Top pediatricians urged eligible students to get the first shot now because it takes five weeks to become fully vaccinated. 

“We’re seeing a very significant surge in disease,” said Dr. Andy Pavia, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at U of U Health and director of Hospital Epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. 

Pavia said now is the time to get your children vaccinated.

“The picture this fall is going to be very different than we thought it might be when things were looking better and there’s going to be a lot of concerns about transmission in school,” Pavia said. 

Nearly half of Utah’s counties are rated “high transmission” for COVID-19, the most since early March. 

Everybody in Utah 12+ is eligible for vaccination.

Pediatricians encouraged parents who are hesitant to talk with their family physicians. 

“They do tend to trust their primary care physicians, so I would encourage you to go out and make appointments, or talk during your well-child exams about not only vaccinating your children but yourselves,” said Dr. Tim Duffy, pediatrician and associate medical director for Intermountain Healthcare’s Pediatric Service Line. 

So far, 38% of Utah children 12 to 18 have had their first dose, which puts Utah ahead of most states.

“That shows the enthusiasm that many parents have had for protecting their kids,” said Pavia. “But 38% is not nearly enough. We have a long way to go.” 

For children under 12, the Food and Drug Administration said vaccinations may not come until mid-winter.

With the recent surge in cases, these pediatricians said they would like to see children under 12 wear masks when they are indoors for their own protection and those around them. 

“It’s really concerning,” said Duffy. “I think especially when we have a vulnerable population under 12 that cannot be vaccinated. I personally would like to see kids wearing masks in school, especially in that age group.” 

The Utah Legislature banned face mask requirements in schools. Schools and teachers can still encourage students to wear masks, but they cannot mandate it. Masks can still be required by schools in collaboration with local health departments during outbreaks. 

“More of the cases that are being diagnosed around Utah are in people 15 to 45,” said Pavia. “More of the hospitalizations are occurring in that age group, so there’s a lot of benefit to getting vaccinated.” 

Pavia said one of the big myths about COVID-19 is that it’s no big deal for children. There have been more than 1,000 hospitalizations and several deaths in Utah among children during the pandemic. He said it’s not benign when children catch COVID-19.

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Utah Doctors Urge Eligible Students To Get Vaccinated Before School Returns