Virus Outbreak Vaccine Kids

FILE - This Jan. 24, 2021, file photo shows a vial of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 in Seattle. U.S. regulators on Monday, May 10, 2021, expanded use of Pfizer's shot to those as young as 12, sparking a race to protect middle and high school students before they head back to class in the fall. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) ORG XMIT: NY797

State health leaders are preparing to launch a campaign to encourage 12-15-year-olds to take the COVID-19 vaccine before summer school, camps and the start of classes in August.

"By their social nature teens have proven to be very effective spreaders of COVID-19," the group said in an announcement set for Thursday.

"The availability of COVID vaccines in 12-15-year-olds can make the coming school year safer and more normal, but only if families and adolescents choose to get vaccinated," organizers said.

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Dr. Joseph Kanter, state health officer, is helping to lead a state effort for 12-15 year-olds to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Louisiana has about 250,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15. About 3,000 have gotten the vaccine, officials said.

The effort will be led by Dr. Joseph Kanter, state health officer, leaders of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and health officials at the Tulane University School of Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, Our Lady of the Lake Children's Health and LSU Health Shreveport.

"This is good for students. It is good for teachers. And at the end of the day it is going to make for a much more normal experience in the fall," Kanter said. "It is a ticket to normalcy and a great way to protect families."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging children 12-15 to get the vaccine after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for that age group.

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The percentage of Louisiana residents who are fully vaccinated is one of the lowest in the nation.

About 34% of state residents have started taking the vaccine compared to the U.S. average of 48%.

"The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be safe and provides a strong immune response against the virus, particularly in adolescents," state health leaders said. "Importantly, it has also been shown to substantially reduce the chance one might unknowingly pass the virus onto someone else."

"As the summer begins, we strongly encourage parents of children ages 12 and up to find out where COVID-19 vaccines are available in your area and to schedule your child for their vaccination as soon as possible," the group's statement says. "This is especially important for those who will be attending summer camps, traveling, spending time with friends, working summer jobs and going back to school in August."

Asked if he expects vaccine resistance from the families with children 12-15 Kanter said, "Not so much pushback."

"People have a lot of questions. To me that is totally understandable. Everything with this pandemic has been confusing and fast paced."

More than 10,000 Louisiana residents, including seven children, have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

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