St. Louis officials urge parents to get their kids the COVID-19 vaccine
St. Louis officials are rolling out a plan to make the COVID-19 vaccine for children available now that federal officials have announced that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11. City leaders say parents should make sure their children are vaccinated so they will not miss any of the school year.
Protecting children from the coronavirus will require a community-based approach focused on education and access, said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, director of the St. Louis Department of Health.
Parents can take their kids to get the shot at vaccination clinics, doctor’s offices and some of the major health care providers in the region through the city’s partnerships with Affinia, CARESTL, BJC HealthCare, and SSM Health.
Citing the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, Davis pledged to keep parents informed about the shot.
“You're not going to put a shot in my baby’s arm without me knowing what the side effect profile is and what data actually went through to determine this,” Davis said. “It’s my job to break that down in a way that’s accessible for parents.”
The city’s vaccination initiative also consists of identifying additional vaccination partners in the community, supporting clinics and monitoring the rollout’s progress.
Mayor Tishaura Jones urged parents to get their eligible children vaccinated.
“Pediatric vaccination is the key to protecting our babies, protecting our school and protecting our communities,” Jones said. “We have to vaccinate kids to keep them learning in person instead of virtual so they can play sports, go to school events and do the things they love.”
Federal officials previously recommended the vaccine for children 12 and older.
Over 9,000 additional St. Louis Public Schools students are now eligible to get the vaccine, Superintendent Kelvin Adams said.
More than 3,000 students in the district have been quarantined during the pandemic following potential exposure to COVID-19, he said.
“This is a game-changer for public education, because it gives us an opportunity to keep students in the classroom,” Adams said of the vaccine.
He said the most effective learning can only occur “when students are present every day.”
To help put parents and students at ease, health officials will hold vaccination drives at Gateway Middle School, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Nov. 13 and Dec. 4.
“Kids need to be where they’re comfortable,” Davis said. “Where are they comfortable? Their schools. Where else are they comfortable? At their primary physicians or health care providers. That's why they are a main partner.”
Adams said that vaccines will be made available for every student who wants one, but that there are no plans to mandate the vaccine for students.