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Health officials push for more child vaccinations ahead of the holidays

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:57 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Health Department expects to see school cases drop toward the end of the year due to holiday breaks and kids not being in the classroom.

Now, the concern is turning to when the students will return to class in January.

“I think right now we are struggling to predict what we think will be the impact of vacation,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of the county health department.

The county health department is out with new school COVID-19 numbers ahead of the Thanksgiving break: 189 outbreaks,112 classroom closures, and more than 6,000 cases or contacts. All this coming as we see a spike in new infections across the state.

Health officials say gatherings around the holidays could be a super spreader, especially among the unvaccinated.

There are around 88,000 children in the five to eleven age group in Pima County, and so far only a small portion have been vaccinated.

“We estimated that we needed to do 25,000 in November. Just yesterday, I now believe we are pretty much on track for that. At the end of last week, we had done about 12,000,” Dr. Cullen said.

Across the state, local physicians are sounding the alarm about the slow vaccination progress for younger children.

“Only 6% of Arizona children 5-11 have been vaccinated after Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use in that group earlier today. The day after the vaccine was authorized for children 5-11, I was in line with my six year old to get her vaccine,” emergency medicine specialist Dr. Kara Geren said.

The physicians say it only takes one infected person at a holiday gathering to make many others sick.

They say vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, but waiting to get vaccinated only increases the risk of another school outbreak.

“To Arizona parents, please, please ignore the politics here and don’t listen to disinformation. Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician about getting vaccinated. We’re vaccinating our children and we want the same protection measures for the families we love and serve,” Tucson family physician Dr. Cadey Harrel said.

This Thanksgiving, health officials are strongly recommending everyone to mask up for indoor gatherings, especially if you’re around people whose vaccination status is unknown.

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