RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The first day for students on the Wake County traditional school calendar is six weeks away. Experts say now is the time to get students vaccinated.
The Pfizer vaccine, approved for those 12 and older, has a five-week timeline — three weeks between doses and then two weeks to reach its full effect.
“We’ve gotta keep our kids protected before they go to school, not like the day that they get to school getting them the vaccine,” said UNC infectious disease specialist Dr. David Wohl. “So, of course, it makes total sense that you want your kids prepared and you want them to come in immune to COVID-19. That means getting them vaccinated now.”
Wohl said he expects the more contagious Delta variant to become the dominant strain of COVID-19, making it even more important for those eligible to get vaccinated.
He said the group of students he’s most concerned with is high schoolers because they’re eligible to get vaccinated and can spread the disease more easily.
“If kids who are eligible for vaccination are not getting vaccinated, we’re really just setting ourselves up for small outbreaks in schools, which are gonna lead them to close down, and lead for at least some period of time to virtual teaching,” Wohl said.
Greg Stanley’s daughter is starting high school this fall. He said she got vaccinated as soon as she was eligible.
“It relieves the tension of ‘what if’,” Stanley said. “So she can go back, hopefully, will be able to go back to school, understanding that she is prepared in the best way possible to not get sick, and if she does contract it then to be able to fight it.”
Wohl said it’s not just about what happens in classrooms, he’s concerned about spreading through contact sports and social events as fall approaches.
According to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data, children 12 to 17 make up 3 percent of people with at least one vaccine dose, and 8 percent of the total population.
In addition to vaccine clinics, Wohl said some pediatricians have the vaccine.
As for children 12 and under, Wohl expects results from those vaccine trials to come out in the next two to three months.