Doctors make push to get more teens vaccinated before new school year


HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — It might be a bit early for students to be thinking about going back to school, but for parents looking to get their kids vaccinated for the new school year, doctors say now is a perfect time.

Most schools in the Rio Grande Valley start their fall semester in mid-August and doctors are making a push to get every eligible teen vaccinated before then.

“Let’s be frank. Let’s call the elephant out in the room,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority. “It’s impossible to go back to school regardless of whatever safety measures you take and not propagate the disease if it’s still in the community.”

It takes around five weeks from first dose for a person to have the full immunity the vaccine provides. Dr. James Castillo, the Cameron County health authority, said people being fully vaccinated is extremely important now that a more contagious strain of COVID-19, the Delta variant, is spreading rapidly.

The number of Delta variant cases of COVID-19 has “been doubling every week or two. We know that it’s a lot more contagious, so the sooner you can get to that fully vaccinated state, the better,” said Castillo.

Around 50% of people 12 and over in Texas are fully vaccinated according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The age group 12-18 have the least amount of fully vaccinated people because only one vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, is available to that age group, and only for around a month.

In June, Moderna applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their two-dose vaccine for use in teens 12-17. As of July 1, the EUA had not yet been granted.

The Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine is currently undergoing clinical trials to study the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine in teens 12-17 according to their website.

Every person that gets vaccinated is one less chance for the virus to become worse.

“Every time there’s a possibility of new mutations and new variants that, one day mathematically it will happen, that we will get a new variant that vaccines and current treatments are just not effective,” said Melendez.

Some parents might be concerned about the possibility of myocarditis from the COVID-19 vaccine, but the CDC says there have only been a few thousand cases out of over 100 million vaccines given.

“It’s really important to keep in mind that COVID also causes those types of heart inflammation and heart issues but at a much higher rate,” said Castillo.

Schools in Texas aren’t allowed to require facemasks anymore because of Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-36, but Castillo still recommends parents make their kids wear them to school.

Vaccines for children under 12 are not yet approved by the FDA, but trials are going on.

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