SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — According to information from the state Department of Health, 8,945 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to teens between the ages of 16 and 19 years old.
On April 5, vaccinations in South Dakota were opened up to all individuals over the age of 16. The DOH says that as of the 2018 Census, there are 46,266 persons living in South Dakota between the ages of 16 and 19 years old. Of that population, 19.3% have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
While the vaccination window for this age group has been open for less than a month, Avera Medical Group’s Vice President of Clinical Quality, Dr. David Basel says that it’s very important to get this group vaccinated.
The biggest concern, says Basel, is that the virus is now circulating at the highest rate in the age group of upper teens and those in their 20s. “One of the reasons,” he says, “is because they do tend to have milder symptoms. They maybe don’t recognize that they have COVID and are transferring it to more people before they even realize that they have it.”
Basel says that teens in the 16-17 year old age range will need to get parental consent to be vaccinated. 18 and 19 year-olds can get the vaccine on their own.
In terms of risk, Basel says that there have not been any increased reports of incidents of adverse events stemming from vaccination. “If anything,” says Basel, “it seems like it’s going to be more effective in that younger population, kind of the younger you are, the more effective the vaccine tends to be.”
Since younger people do generally have stronger immune systems, Basel says the only real downside might be a bit more soreness at the site of injection following the vaccination.
The upsides to vaccinations however are more evident. Sanford Health’s Chief Physician, Dr. Jeremy Cauwels says that the big bonus is that teens who are vaccinated cannot be quarantined out of activities.
This is a benefit Cauwels says it’s important to emphasize. “In order to get a vaccine into the arm of a child, you have to make sure the parents think it’s important,” he says. “The parents have to think it’s as important as the other things that are going on in their life, and that means relating it to things like school activities or sports and how it helps us continue those.”
Beyond the benefits of vaccination, we must also consider the risk to society if any segment, including teens, goes unprotected. “Any time we leave a group unvaccinated,” says Cauwels “we take away from what we call the herd.” He says that taking away that group opens up the risk of the disease to the most vulnerable elements of society.
Such unvaccinated elements of the population could also provide a sort of breeding pool for variants to continue mutating, increasing the chance of a variant breaking immunity. Cauwels says a variant is in essence a copy of the virus that has learned a new skill. By vaccinating, we limit a virus’s training ground where it can learn a new skill.
Basel says that looking forward, we should be on the look out for the CDC to make an announcement with regards to even younger vaccination groups, citing a recent meeting by the CDC subcommittee on immunization that announced an emergency meeting to discuss the Pfizer vaccine for younger populations in the near future. He says 12-15 year-olds are the next anticipated age group to be approved for vaccination.