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Health officials urging summer as the time to vaccinate kids against COVID

Erie County Health Commissioner, wearing pink, stands before a microphone and between the U.S. and Erie County flags, with the county seal as a background
Erie County
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein is among public health officials urging young people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 this summer.

With the opening of school not that far away, the push is increasing to get those aged 12 and above vaccinated soon enough to be fully immunized against COVID-19 before classes start around Labor Day.

It's part of the national effort to get everyone possible vaccinated. Science is that it takes about five weeks from the first shot to full immunity and school isn't that much farther away.

There are research studies underway to see if the current vaccines can be used on those under age 12. That means there will be kids in schools this fall who are vaccinated and others who aren't, either because they haven't received a shot or because they are too young.

In Erie County, the Health Department is pushing hard for those vaccinations, practically going door-to-door to get shots in arms in areas with low vaccine rates. Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said there aren't as many kids vaccinated as the department would like.

"We have made progress. So about 40% of Erie County 12-15-year-olds and 49% of 16 and 17-year-olds in Erie County have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine," Burstein said, "and I have to say that my partners in community pediatrics have been great champions of trying to get all their patients vaccinated against COVID."

However, testing has fallen off. Burstein said just because there are vaccines, that doesn't mean people should give up on basics like wearing masks, social distancing and hand-washing, as the virus still around.

"There are many strategies that we need to implement for COVID-19 prevention," she said. "So we know that vaccination is an important piece. However, masking, social distancing, screening people with symptoms, making sure that people who have symptoms are tested, so we can know their status. Making sure that people who are exposed and aren't vaccinated are in quarantine."

The most recent Erie County COVID data can be found here. Vaccination sites can be found here.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.