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Ohio County Prepping Youth Vaccination Plans

Pfizer COVID-19 Shot for Children 12-15 Approved

WHEELING — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-brand COVID-19 vaccine for use on children aged 12-15 earlier this week, leaving the door open for the Centers for Disease Control and state governments to sign off on its use as well.

With approval from other federal and state entities expected to come in a matter of days, local health departments are prepared to distribute the vaccine to younger clients, in tandem with school districts.

Wheeling-Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said youths can begin coming in _ with a parent or guardian accompanying them _ for walk-in appointments as soon as they’re approved. Gamble encouraged the newly-eligible children to get the shot, saying that their inoculation would have “tremendous” benefits to stem the spread of the disease.

“The effectiveness is going to be tremendous,” he said. “Not only will you have protection for the kids, you’ll have protection for the families, as well, within their household. There’s tremendous effectiveness in preventing new cases.”

A program to distribute COVID vaccines at several schools in the county, Gamble said, is in the works and should be rolling out as early as Friday or Monday, using schools as centers to distribute the vaccine during evening hours. Warwood School, the Linsly School, Ritchie Elementary and Bridge Street Middle School were identified as local distribution centers, but actual distribution isn’t set to begin until approval is gained and the programs begin.

“Our original plans were (to begin) Thursday, but even at the earliest it’s Friday. It’s kind of on hold until the powers that be make those decisions,” Gamble said. “But those are the schools we identified because of their connections, good parking, and we’ve used them before for mass clinics.”

In addition, Gamble mentioned that back-to-school vaccinations, which should be on parents’ minds as summer approaches, must be given more than two weeks before or after a COVID vaccine, so sooner is better.

“All across the country, parents are beginning to think about back-to-school immunizations. If they’re looking to get vaccinated, they have to think about this vaccine plus those others. The reason we say that is, if you get those vaccines, you have to wait two weeks before you can get your COVID (shot). You cannot get another vaccine if you get the COVID vaccine — you do need to wait two weeks.

“Now that it’s available, we’re still in school, now’s the time to get it so you’re ready for your vaccinations later in July and August, versus if you wait, then not only do you have to delay one or the other, but with delays, there’s always lost opportunities. There are reasons to get it done now.”

On that note, Gamble also said the authorization for children younger than 12 may come later in the summer or into the fall.

In Marshall County, the county health department is ready to work with county schools to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to students aged 12 to 15, once governmental entities give their approval.

“We will be ready. We’re planning, for our next round of vaccinations, that we will be ordering for that age range,” Ackermann said. “We’ve worked with the schools, they have submitted a list of names, people who have family members who have expressed interest in that vaccine.”

Marshall County Schools Superintendent Shelby Haines said there are about 45 students in the district, as of Tuesday, who have expressed interest in receiving the shot through the district.

“We put the call out to all the middle and high schools,” Haines said, “letting them know there was the possibility that their student would become available, and if they had a desire to get the shot for the child, they could call here to the office.”

Marshall County was orange Monday on the state Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 map, reflecting a steady climb in both infection rate and percent positivity over the last week. Ackermann said the county had experienced a number of “situations” which resulted in numerous positive cases each. Ackermann was unsure what had led to the increase in positives, instead referring to Nursing Director Misty Merinar. Merinar could not be reached for further comment on the nature of the outbreaks.

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