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Low COVID-19 vaccination rates among school age kids in Wisconsin

A child getting a vaccine
Robyn Beck/AFP
Getty Images
Only 30% of kids in the Milwaukee area have completed their first set of COVID-19 vaccinations.

School is almost back in session, and parents are working to make sure their kids have everything they need to start the school year. For many parents, a COVID-19 vaccination should be on that list. Vaccination rates among school age kids in Wisconsin remain low, and Milwaukee Public Schools will be starting the year with optional masking in classrooms.

Only 30% of kids in the Milwaukee area have completed their first set of vaccinations. As the start date for Milwaukee Public Schools quickly approaches, what does this mean for our risk of another COVID surge?

"We know that the most important layer of protection for anyone to have, including kids, is to be vaccinated and, if eligible, boosted to have that maximal level of protection to, yes, prevent infection, but even more so now prevent that severe disease and that hospitalization. So, it is worrisome not seeing more children in the community, let alone adults, being fully vaccinated and being up to date on their boosters as well," says Dr. Ben Weston, the chief health policy advisor for Milwaukee County.

The CDC also now recommends that masks should be worn when you're living in a high, or an orange, community level of disease. And right now, Milwaukee dropped just below the high community level of disease threshold.

Weston says, "I say dipped below 200 cases per 100,000 is the threshold and we dropped down to 195 [cases]. So, we're just below the level ..., which puts us into a medium category, and so that's what caused Milwaukee Public Schools to flip their trigger and go to this mask optional state."

The most critical mitigation effort, he says, is getting vaccinated, but distancing and masking are also crucial, especially masking properly and using surgical masks, KN95 or N95 masks instead of cloth masks.

Right now, parents can access vaccines for their children through state's health care systems. However, parents should consult their children's pediatrician or family physician about how to get a vaccine.

"Certainly with the demand in vaccination decreasing more recently, the number of outlets that are able to resource and staff vaccination decreased as well," says Weston. "So frankly, we don't have the number of vaccination sites in the county — private, public or other — that we had a year ago."

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Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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