Vt. children bear brunt of new COVID infections

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 4:50 PM EST
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - The largest number of new COVID cases in Vermont continues to be driven by children ages 5 to 11, now the rush is on to vaccinate those kids at over a hundred school-based clinics in the coming days.

Parents we spoke with say they’re relieved their kids can finally get the shot, but state officials say only about one-third of kids in this age group so far have gotten their first dose or have an appointment to do so.

“I feel relief, I feel a lot of gratitude for all the people doing such hard work. Yeah, it’s been hard,” said Mark Legrand, who took his grandson, Chad, to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“No, it didn’t really hurt,” admitted the eight-year-old.

The vaccine for children, which is two-thirds less of a dose than the one given to people 12 and older, is seeing a steady rollout just two weeks after it was approved. It comes as new COVID cases have doubled in that age group since Halloween to 120 cases per 100,000.

“Child vaccination rates right now are looking great. There has been a very, very high demand. In fact, hard to keep up with, and we’re incredibly pleased with that,” said Joan Marie Misek, district director with the Vermont Department of Health.

Vermont Education Secretary Dan French says he’s pleased with the rollout so far, and that vaccinating these kids will ease the burden on parents and schools, helping to avoid outbreaks and quarantines. “Those schools with high vaccination rates will see more stability in their operations and those will low rates will see more quarantines and cancellations of school activities,” French said.

Barre City Middle School Principal Pierre Laflamme agrees. “It’s an insurmountable task. Reachers have to keep up with these different cohorts that are out at different times, so having this makes me think we have one more shot at closing that gap and getting to a point where we’re not closing schools,” he said.

“It will definitely give us peace of mind just knowing in the school, whether it’s not worrying about him bringing something home from school and knowing he might not be bringing something to others, it’s nice to do our part,” said Sam von Trapp, a parent.

“It’s giving people a sense that we might be getting to the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Barre Unified Union School District Superintendent Chris Hennessey.

Health officials say around 300 children got their first shot Tuesday at the Barre school’s clinic.

The state says there isn’t enough regional data yet to know where they’re having success or lagging behind when it comes to signing up children for the shots.

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