(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) While it feels like summer just started, the health department said it's time for students in the St. Joseph School District to schedule their required back-to-school immunizations.
With two months left until the start of the new school year, St. Joseph Health Director advises parents to get their kids immunized in time for school and hopes eligible students, 12-years-old and up, take one more shot while they're there- the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I encourage parents to go ahead and bring their kiddos now so that they can get vaccinated and be fully protected before school starts,” said Debra Bradley, St. Joseph Health Director.
For parents interested in getting their student(s) immunized from the COVID-19 virus along with the typical state-required vaccinations, Bradley suggests families begin now as it takes five weeks to be fully vaccinated with Pfizer's vaccine, the only vaccine authorized for children 12-years-old and older.
Bradley said, “If they wait till August, then they’re not going to be fully vaccinated until the end of September or even into October so there’s still going to be that period of risk.”
The risk of becoming ill unknown heading into the fall semester as Buchanan County's cases, hospitalizations and positivity rate steadily climbs.
As of Monday, the positivity rate has jumped from 8.63% to 13.2%.
Meanwhile, Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph reported 24 hospitalizations.
The St. Joseph School District's Superintendent, Dr. Doug Van Zyl, said the district is keeping an eye on the rise of COVID in the community as they plan to relax safety protocols this fall.
“Similar to summer school, we’re learning toward a mask optional policy,” said Dr. Doug Van Zyl, SJSD Superintendent.
The district dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak during summer school which forced two schools to go virtual as face coverings became optional for the first time in over a year for the SJSD.
Dr. Van Zyl said, “We sent out information to those even in summer school that if we saw the numbers continue to rise, we could go back to a mask required policy similar to what we had before.”
As the health department continues to see more young people infected, mainly those under 30-years-old, health experts advise parents to protect their children by protecting themselves.
“Kids under 12 don’t have the option to get vaccinated, so we have to get vaccinated for them to protect them," said Bradley, "I don’t want to cause fear, but I want people to understand the gravity of not being vaccinated.”
The St. Joseph Health Department will begin administering vaccines starting July 1st everyday from 8-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.
Bradley said the health department will also begin clinics shortly. For updates regarding the COVID-19 clinics, follow the St. Joseph Health Department's Facebook page.