ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — With several school districts set to begin classes in just over five weeks, the countdown is on for St. Louis County Public Health officials to encourage families to get their children vaccinated for COVID-19.
“We are seeing camps and daycares and situations where a single kid will pass [COVID] to eight or 10 other kids,” said Emily Doucette, Chief Medical Officer for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. “We weren’t seeing that early on with the Alpha and other variants, so I would say in the landscape of the Delta variant, and as a parent myself, I would not hesitate to get my kids vaccinated.”
On Monday, the county will kick off its back to school immunization and COVID-19 vaccination program whereby families can go to any of the county’s three health clinics from 8 to 4 p.m. to get all their children all the required immunizations they need and also be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. All of this is at no cost to the family.
“We have a full offering of childhood vaccination services, of our COVID-19 vaccine across our three clinic locations. We also offer other routine back to school services, like pediatric physicals, dental care, things like that to get people ready to go back to school,” said Doucette.
The move comes as St. Louis County continues to face challenges in getting COVID-19 vaccination rates up among children ages 12-18.
“I think that it needs to be up to the families. It needs to be the parent’s decision if your child is under the age of 18,” said Joanna Fiehler, a parent of a student at Parkway School District. “Of course, talk to your kids. I mean at that age, they’re able to make some choices on their own.”
Fiehler says her 18-year-old daughter made the choice to get the vaccine, but she says there are parents in the school district that already have their mind made up about not getting the vaccine for their own children.
“If my kid was 12, I would probably not have vaccinated her at 12,” she said, “or would’ve been doing a lot more research than I did.”
St. Louis County’s health department says while COVID-19 does not affect children as much as adults, they worry this population could become more vulnerable if the virus were to mutate among the unvaccinated population.
For Fiehler, she is not as concerned about her daughter being impacted by COVID-19 in the fall now being vaccinated, but as concerns over the Delta variant continue to rise, it is unclear to her if school districts like hers will now require masks in the classroom.
“I am very concerned that they will have all students be masked whether of a vaccination status or not,” she said. “But I’m also concerned if they choose to mask students that are unvaccinated, then that puts some sort of pressure on that students that aren’t and kind of divides them as to whether you’re one category or not.”
An official with Parkway School District says at this time they do not know their plans for mask use for the school year, but they hope to make that decision by the end of the month.
Doucette says the county’s health department is in constant communication with the local school district to help them in coming up with safe plans for returning to school.
Opportunities to get no-cost immunizations and COVID-19 vaccinations will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until Sept. 17 at three locations:
John C. Murphy Health Center, 6121 North Hanley Road in Berkeley
North Central Community Health Center, 4000 Jennings Station Road, in Pine Lawn
South County Health Center, 4580 S. Lindbergh Blvd. in Sunset Hills
South County Health Central will also provide evening hours for vaccination between 4-7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
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