FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — With teenagers in Arkansas as young as 16, now eligible to receive the COVID -19 vaccine there are some things parents need to know.
Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine currently approved for those who are 16 and 17 years old.
Teen’s will need parental permission to get the vaccine. Unless they are legally emancipated.
Some pharmacies are posting on their websites that they can vaccinate that age group and in some cases parents may have to call ahead to find out but don’t let these extra steps discourage you from setting that appointment.
UAMS, Professor of Internal Medicine, Dr. Robert Hopkins tells us although it’s less common for teens to get severe cases of the coronavirus it’s not impossible.
“Most of the hospitalization, most of the severe disease has been with older adults but we have had young people die from this infection. We have had some people have chronic symptoms related to COVID in the teenage, young people population,” said Hopkins.
He recommends not getting any other vaccines within two weeks of the COVID-19 shot.
He says teens shouldn’t expect any more symptoms than other age groups; adding fever, muscle aches and feeling tired are all pretty common.
Right now, there are several clinical trials going on for younger teens. Health leaders expect a vaccine to be approved for those as young as 12 years old, maybe even younger within months from now.
Health officials are urging communities to keep COVID-19 testing and mask wearing a top priority.
Dr. Hopkins says when it comes to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, testing and vaccination efforts go hand.
He is concerned about the variants circulating in Arkansas as well as the increased rates of infection in some of our bordering states. He adds that the more the virus spreads the more variants we are going to see.
He is also concerned with the removal of the state’s mask mandate because not enough people in the state are vaccinated, including school aged students who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine.
“We have at least 2 to 3 studies that show that communities that have mask mandates have less disease spread. So, I would expect that if we have kids in schools without masks, we will have more disease, and the only way to detect disease is by doing more testing,” said Hopkins.
When it comes to Arkansas lawmakers pushing to prohibit the state from reinstating a mask mandate, Dr. Hopkins says it’s sending the wrong message. He adds that the state needs to stand united on the safety guidelines.
Hopkins says backing off any of the safety measures which have helped keep the state’s numbers low in recent weeks is only going to put more people at risk.