BY: JAKE ZUCKERMAN and Ohio Capital Journal
Nearly two in three age-eligible teenagers remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 as summer ends and the disease looms over its third consecutive school year.
Spokespersons for the state departments of health and education said they did not know what percentage of students enrolled in public schools are vaccinated.
However, looking at the total population (which would include homeschooled students), more than 62% remain unvaccinated.
“As of today, there are 390,903 Ohioans age 12-18 who have started the vaccination process,” said Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Alicia Shoults. “This represents 37.5% of that age group.”
Despite plans to attend classes in close contact with their peers several days per week, teenagers are the least vaccinated age cohort — surpassing 20-29-year-olds (44%) and 30-39-year-olds (51%).
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was authorized for use in people aged 16-and-up in mid-December, though most states restricted access for elder and sicker residents through early 2021. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized its use on children 12-15 on May 11.
At a press conference last week, Gov. Mike DeWine said a communal goal of keeping students in school for in-person learning is “threatened” by the hyper-transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19. He repeated a recommendation from ODH that students either seek vaccination or wear a mask at school.
“The best way to make sure a child can stay in school and not have his or her classes interrupted, is for that child to be vaccinated,” he said. “If that child cannot be vaccinated, the best way to ensure a good school year for that child is for that child to wear a mask while in class.”
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JAKE ZUCKERMAN is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.