GAINESVILLE ‒ Alachua County residents can help take a step toward herd immunity now that 12- to 15- year-old children can get a COVID-19 vaccine locally.
Anyone over the age of 12 can receive the Pfizer vaccine through the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County’s walk-up vaccination sites, which are run in collaboration with UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, or by scheduling an appointment.
The Champions Club at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was busy on May 14 with parents and children who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Kelly Gurka, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, waited in line with her daughters, Madeleine Gurka, 15, and Eleanor Gurka, 13.
“We wanted to get them vaccinated so that they are not only personally protected against COVID-19, but also so that we can contribute to achieving herd immunity in our community,” Kelly Gurka said.
Both of her girls said they were excited to get the vaccination.
Children have a lower incidence of COVID-19 than adults and severe consequences of infection are rare, but their risk from the virus is not zero, Gurka said. Younger age groups can still contribute to community transmission.
“We know that severe outcomes associated with COVID-19 occur among children even though they are rare. There is an abundance of data to suggest that the vaccines are safe, with the administration of millions of doses to date and unprecedented safety monitoring,” Gurka said.
She said she is confident the vaccine’s short-term potential side effects are worth the long-term benefit.
“I think vaccines are one of the single greatest public health achievements of our time,” Gurka said. “Most of us have not had to live with the vaccine-preventable diseases that our parents and grandparents faced because vaccines have been around since we ourselves were children.”
Walk-up vaccinations are available throughout Alachua County. Children ages 12 to 17 years must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to receive the vaccine.
Michael Lauzardo, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and deputy director of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, leads UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, which was created to track and respond to COVID-19 cases in the UF community.
“The bottom line is that everyone who gets vaccinated is a dead-end and a stop to the spread of the virus, which helps us overall,” Lauzardo said.
Clinical trials with children ages 12 to 15 years revealed that side effects were less common and the vaccine’s effectiveness was much higher than other groups, Lauzardo said.
“Since we want to stop the spread of the virus to our loved ones, we can take that extra step to protect them by getting our children vaccinated as well,” Lauzardo said.
Visit: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/vaccinations/vaccine-availability/ for more information on vaccine availability throughout Alachua County.
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