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360: Differing perspectives on vaccines for adolescents

Posted at 6:03 AM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 07:24:02-04

MILWAUKEE — As public health guidance is peeled back, we've seen how vaccines can help push communities back towards a "new normal."

When it comes to kids and vaccines, perhaps not surprisingly, not everybody is on the same page.

So, we're going 360 to hear from multiple people in our own community who share different perspectives on this topic.

360: Differing perspectives on vaccines for adolescents

We spoke with parents and adolescents who are for the shots. Also, we talked to a mom who says her daughter will not be vaccinated. We also talked to doctors who explain why they believe the vaccine is so important right now. that's where we start.

"I think we have to do everything we can to protect all of our children," said Dr. Jeff Pothof with UW-Health.

He tells me he believes the Pfizer vaccine is the "ticket" to getting kids back to their normal lives.

Emergency Use Authorization of that vaccine was expanded to 12-to-15-year-olds by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control )CDC_ recommended the vaccine's use on kids in that age group just last week.

"Vaccines really are the difference-maker. As we get more of our kids vaccinated, they can take off their masks they don't have to worry about that. They can better learn in school, they can go to summer camp, they can do those things that we want our kids to be able to do," said Pothof.

Right now, it appears the vaccine could be key to keeping COVID-19 out of middle and high schools as COVID-19 variants appear to impact children at faster rates.

"We hope that enough 12 to 15-year-olds will get vaccinated so we start to see fewer cases in our schools," said Dr. Samroz Jakvani, an epidemiologist with the Jefferson County Health Department.

14-year-old Natalie Duback got a vaccine shot with her sisters last week.

"I'll be able to do stuff with my friends and not have to worry about it and get to spend time with my grandparents and not have to worry about them at all," said Jakvani.

Some parents nationwide are feeling a sense of relief as their kids begin the vaccine process.

"Knowing that my kids are going to have friends that are vaccinated, and they can have sleepovers again and we can feel safe about our interactions," said Sarah James. Her 12-year-old son was set to receive the vaccine in Arizona last week.

But, not all kids are rolling up their sleeves.

"Right now we won't be getting her the vaccine," said Kristin Theis, a parent of a 14-year-old girl.

Theis said her daughter is up to date on most recommended vaccines.

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The CDC recommends kids are vaccinated for Hepatitis B at birth, then Polio, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Rotavirus when they're one to two months old. At six months, the CDC says kids should get their flu shot and then from 12 to 23 months old, kids should be vaccinated for Chicken Pot, Measles, Mumps and Rubella.

"We just don't know enough," said Theis who understands why her daughter is still hesitant. She says her daughter is mature and well-informed but that only time and additional research could help build confidence in the new COVID-19 vaccines.

"My daughter is 14 and I believe she is of age to make some decisions on her own and she does not want it," said Theis.

Theis also said the rest of her family is vaccinated against COVID-19 including her parents, her husband and herself. Still, she says if her daughter refuses the vaccine shot right now, that's Ok.

"I just wish people would be OK with other people's opinions and of their choices for themselves and their families," said Theis.

Parent Justin Ihrcke tells TMJ4 he agrees that the youngest age group now eligible for the vaccine deserves to be guided to a place where they can make the decision on their own.

"Effectively this is your choice and I'm just going to give you the options. If you want to do it, go ahead. I wouldn't be a hard no even though I wouldn't get it myself," said Ihrcke.

A big decision for these parents and teens. But what about younger kids? Doctors say they believe kids 2 though 11 years old will likely be eligible by vaccines in early Fall. By the end of the year, doctors says kids younger than 2 could be receiving shots as well.

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