State and federal authorities are ramping up vaccine distribution for young children, state health officials said Thursday, encouraging parents to considering getting their children vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Just like we buckle up kids in the car considering getting your kid vaccinated,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, during a weekly meeting with reporters. “If you have questions contact your healthcare provider.”
Zink said recent studies have shown high effectiveness for preventing COVID-19 in children, but noted that like with adults, it will take some time from after the first dose until children’s immune system will fully develop its natural immunity. Adults are considered fully vaccinated two weeks following their final dose of the vaccine. So far only the Pfizer vaccine is available for children ages 5-11, and is given in two doses adminstered 21 days apart.
Registration for the Juneau School District pediatric vaccine clinics opened at noon Thursday with the first clinics scheduled for Monday, Nov. 8.
Zink and other state health officials emphasized vaccines’ ability to prevent serious infection and hospitalization from COVID-19. A monthly report from the Alaska Division of Public Health shows that from January 2020-September 2021, the majority of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 were unvaccinated.
The highest number of cases and hospitalizations in Alaska have been in the past few months, state data show, with the vast majority of hospitalizations among the unvaccinated. The state is recording a number of vaccine breakthrough cases —fully vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 —but the rate of hospitalization for vaccine breakthrough cases remains low.
According to state data, from July-September 2021, 6.7% of hospitalizations for the 12-49 age group were vaccine breakthrough cases. Data shows vaccine breakthroughs in those same months were 12.5% of the 50-64 age group and 32.1% of the 65 and older age group.
Zink said as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it is important to think about whom you might be interacting with, and what precautions might be taken to limit the spread of COVID-19. Family gathers and social contact are an important part of health, Zink said, but gatherings often bring together people who may be older or immunocompromised.
“It’s great to share our love and friendship at the holidays,” Zink said. “It’s not great to share our viruses.”
During the news conference with Zink and other state health officials, Alaska Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Tiffany Albert said the group was working with national counterparts regarding the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing requirements for businesses. Additional information would hopefully be available Friday, she said.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced last month the state was joining several others in a lawsuit pushing back against the requirements. The Biden administration has said employers with facilities of a certain size must require vaccines or testing for employees. Vaccine requirements have a legal history going back to smallpox putbreaks in the early 20th Century, according to an April 2, U.S. Congressional Research Services report.
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