Jackson Hole Middle School

Jackson Hole Middle School

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Vaccinations for kids as young as 12 are slated to begin next week, a move public health officials say is an important step that could push Teton County toward some semblance of herd immunity.

“That’s a couple thousand kids right there,” Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said. “It can go into our numbers, and having a small population, a couple thousand people, that makes a difference.”

COVID-19 vaccines have been available only for adults because the clinical trials for them included only older people. For the Pfizer vaccine, the age limit has been 16 years old; for Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson shots, the age is 18.

Now the Food and Drug Administration has granted authorization for the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds, after trials showed it was 100% effective at protecting kids from the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel also gave it the go-ahead.

Of the 1,005 children who received the vaccine in the trial, none contracted COVID-19, while 16 of the 978 kids in the placebo group did. That doesn’t mean that once real-world vaccinations begin the shots will keep 100% of kids from contracting COVID-19, but it does imply a strong level of protection. And Moderna says data from its clinical trial with children will be available this spring, so it is targeting authorization for kids 12 and up before the 2021-22 school year begins.

The Teton County Health Department had been planning a clinic at Jackson Hole High School for 16- and 17-year-olds, so the basic infrastructure is already in place for getting younger students the shots.

“We went ahead and just incorporated the 12- to 15-year-olds in our planning efforts in terms of how many there are and what size of clinics,” Pond said.

Teton County School District No. 1 communications director Charlotte Reynolds said the district wanted to offer the schools as vaccination sites because it would remove barriers for families.

“I think the idea was to make it as convenient for families as possible,” she said.

The district plans to provide information on the vaccines to families, she said, and the decision to get the shots is “up to families and their health care providers and/or speaking with the Health Department.”

Vaccinations for 12- to 17-year-olds will start next week. They will be available for private school students and those who are home-schooled, though those students will need to go to the public schools for the clinics.

For kids under 18, parental consent will be required, though parents will not need to be present for the actual shots as long as they sign the forms. The public school district and private schools will send out information on how to find the forms to register.

The clinic at Jackson Hole High School will be Monday, and one at Jackson Hole Middle School will be Tuesday. Both will run from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parents and guardians are also welcome to attend.

Students 12 to 17 can also go to the Health Department vaccine clinics that are not held at the schools, but they will need the form signed by their parent or guardian and be accompanied by someone who is over 18.

If you have questions or do not hear from your school, contact covidvax@tetoncountywy.gov or call 732-8628, ext. 1, for help.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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