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Health expert addresses vaccine hesitancy among parents of 12- to 15-year-olds

Posted at 9:43 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 22:21:34-04

BYRON CENTER, Mich. — Jaci Lubbers is eager to get her 14-year-old son vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I actually called on Monday to get him scheduled, and they said, 'Try back,'” said Lubbers, who lives in Byron Center. “I tried today, and they said, 'Try back,' so they might be a little tired of me.”

Lubbers, who works in healthcare and whose husband teaches high school science, says her family trusts the development of the coronavirus vaccines. She adds that as Christians, they believe this is the way to care for those around them.

“The conversation is both an individual one; we believe in the science, but it’s also a community response,” said Lubbers. “COVID has affected everyone in our community, so everyone in our community can be a part of solving this problem and moving forward.”

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The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on national health issues, released new research last week. Among parents who have at least one child between the ages 12 to 15 years old, it found 3 in 10 plan to vaccinate their kid for COVID-19 right away, 26% want to wait, 18% will only do so if their school requires, and 23% say they definitely will not get their child vaccinated.

On Tuesday, health officials acknowledged the challenge ahead.

“For those [children] with medical conditions that predispose them to severe COVID-19, tons of interest [in getting the vaccine]," said Dr. Rosemary Olivero, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Spectrum Health. “For the general [pediatric] population, I think we still have a lot of education to do about the benefits of vaccination for individuals and their communities.”

Doctors say misinformation is an issue and doubled down that the vaccine will not alter a person’s DNA or cause long-term issues.

“For vaccines, it has not been recorded that an adverse vaccine outcome has happened outside of two months of when a vaccine is given,” said Olivero. “When we’re thinking about long-term side effects, like 6 or 12 months or many years down the road, is simply not plausible that would happen. I think all of the concerns of long-term side effects are quite unfounded and has not been a part of what we have observed for vaccines since vaccines were developed.”

Health officials say if large groups of kids do not get vaccinated, it could prolong the pandemic.

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“We need to think about how we can slow the spread and the reproduction of that virus,” said Olivero. “The more people who get infected with the virus, the more opportunities the virus has to change in a way that could increase the fitness of the virus.”

A CDC panel needs to sign off on the vaccine before shots can be administered to 12- to 15-year-olds.

If that happens, Spectrum intends to distribute vaccines at its pediatrician offices.

A walk-in vaccine clinic will also be held Saturday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at 4700 60th Street SE. Parents will need to accompany minors.

RELATED: Can businesses require COVID-19 vaccinations? The short answer: yes

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