By Jerry P. Abraham
This summer in Los Angeles County looks and feels much different than the last. Businesses have fully reopened, and our community is enjoying the activities and people we missed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And there’s something else familiar happening: California’s schools are preparing to safely resume in-person instruction in the new school year.
While we welcome the return of all of these things, let’s remember that the pandemic is not yet over. We all need to continue doing our part to slow the spread and keep our local communities — including schools — safe and healthy.
Parents, grandparents and guardians can support the safety of our communities and students by getting vaccinated and helping those ages 12 and older to do the same.
Now’s the time to make a free COVID-19 vaccination appointment for eligible youth returning to classrooms, as the vaccine requires two doses for full protection. The doses are spaced about three weeks apart, and it takes about two weeks after the second dose for the body to build immunity against the virus. So, put that first appointment on the top of your back-to-school checklist.
Family doctors and pediatricians recommend that young people get vaccinated a soon as they are eligible. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which tracks COVID-19 cases among children, reported in mid-June that children represented 19% of the new weekly cases. In May 2020, youth cases were only around 3% of the total cases.
With the highly transmissible Delta variant spiking across our state and nation, COVID-19 vaccinations are especially important for our families. The science and data speak loud and clear.
Vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Sadly, COVID cases are once again on the rise, and nearly all COVID-19 related deaths are among unvaccinated persons.
In California, just over 41% of the eligible African-American community is fully vaccinated, compared to more than 61% of the state’s total eligible population. In Los Angeles County, only about 40% of our eligible African-American community members are fully vaccinated. Those numbers are far too low.
Let’s get our loved ones protected and move our communities closer to immunity. If you’re one of those who has not yet been vaccinated, why not make an appointment to get vaccinated with your child?
Parents and guardians may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, so it’s worth considering some reassuring facts.
COVID-19 vaccines have undergone extensive trials and thorough testing and are proven to be safe and effective for youth 12 and up. The technology used to produce the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines has been developed over the past 20 years.
It is not new. It does not change DNA, it does not contain the COVID-19 virus, and does not affect youth development or fertility.
Indeed, getting vaccinated will help our youth return to the things they love: in-person school, hanging out with friends and activities and sports that make them feel good. These are all things that can help them move on from the stress and isolation of the pandemic and support their mental health and well-being.
You can tell your children that the shot itself is nearly painless. They may only experience minor side effects such as fatigue, a sore arm or fever. These are entirely normal and indicate that their body is building immunity to the virus.
Our young people can take pride in knowing that getting vaccinated helps protect their families, friends, teammates and communities.
On that note of protection, let’s help our children remember to pack a mask in their backpack. California will continue to require that masks be worn indoors in school settings, which ensures that all our children are protected and treated equally. Masks will not be required for outdoor learning environments.
With a new school year and all of its activities just around the corner, we need to remain focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19. It takes a village to make sure classrooms are the safe, healthy environment that our young people need and deserve.
The most critical item on back-to-school lists is not shopping for supplies. It’s getting our children and ourselves vaccinated against COVID-19 — and encouraging our loved ones to do the same.
Dr. Jerry Abraham is the director of the Kedren Vaccines Program, which is committed to vaccinating a high volume of patients against COVID-19.