Gov. Pete Ricketts, Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Logan and health professionals made a pitch Monday for eligible youths to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
Getting the vaccine will prepare young people to safely engage in summer activities in light of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that vaccinated people don’t need to wear a mask in most environments, Ricketts said.
“That will make sure that you’re prepared for summer,” the governor said, and it will slow the spread of the virus.
Asked if the vaccine would be mandated for children, Ricketts said he opposes the government requiring it “especially now when it’s an emergency use authorization.”
Logan said as high school seniors prepare to graduate, it’s the perfect window for them to get a first dose of the vaccine, before commencement, if the student hasn’t already done so and if their family is comfortable with the decision.
“We encourage all eligible students and families to thoughtfully consider the option. I say that as the superintendent of schools and as a mother myself,” Logan said Monday.
Logan encouraged parents to talk to their trusted sources about the vaccine.
She said people have different levels of comfort with the vaccine, and people are emerging from the pandemic at different speeds, with different risk-tolerance levels and acceptance of the vaccine.
The CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccination.
Although fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected, get sick and spread the virus to others, the CDC says.
Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department, said a series of vaccination clinics held in late April and early May at metro Omaha high schools saw “mixed results.”
The clinics were set up to give students convenient access to the vaccine.
Most of the high school clinics administered the vaccine to between 65 and 100 people, Pour said.
Some parents had already taken their children to community clinics, she said.
Dr. Sharon Stoolman, pediatric specialist at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, said it’s OK for parents to have questions about giving the vaccine to children.
“I know that there are a lot of questions and concerns now that it’s the children’s turn,” Stoolman said.
Parents with questions, or whose child has a special medical condition, should talk to their pediatrician, she said. Doctors want parents to be comfortable with their decision, she said.
Stoolman said teens are eager to get back to normal activities, and the vaccine will help them “get back to your activities, to hanging out on the weekends, to having your evening out with friends.”
She said young people today are altruistic, and will respond if it’s explained how the vaccine will protect others.
Stoolman said she is excited that the vaccine is now available for 12- to 15-year-olds.
The teenage years are about being out in the community and making friendships and relationships, attending summer camp and participating in summer sports, she said.
Last year was really hard for teens, and getting vaccinated will help improve their mental health, she said.
Local health departments and some pharmacies began making the Pfizer shots available to 12- to 15-year-olds last Thursday.
Most Douglas County clinics, listed on the Health Department’s website, offer the Pfizer shot and now take walk-ins. The Sarpy/Cass and Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Departments also opened appointments to 12- to 15-year-olds.
People 16 and older have been able to get Pfizer shots nationwide for weeks. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots are available to those 18 and older.
With the pace of vaccination slowing in Nebraska and the rest of the nation, plenty of vaccine is expected to be available for the younger group.