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USF virologist talks slowdown in COVID vaccination numbers

"We were always going to run up against a little bit of a plateau, even with full vaccination, because we have to get the vaccine into kids as well."

On 10 Tampa Bay, we’re committed to keeping you up to date with all the latest COVID-19 news.

That’s why every week we are taking your questions to a local medical expert to talk about what’s going on. From the latest on where Tampa Bay stands with vaccines, to monitoring the COVID-19 variants, we’ll continue tracking information.

Dr. Michael Teng, Ph.D., is a virologist at USF Health.

Here are some of the questions we asked this week:

Q: With COVID vaccinations in the U.S. slowing, it’s not likely that we’ll hit the president’s goal of having 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4th, but is that number really important or arbitrary?

A: “It's a goal. I think the whole point of having a goal is to have a number to shoot for. We probably won't make it by July 4th, and that's a shame because it looked like it was achievable at the time with the increased rates of vaccination, but I think what we've come to understand is that we're coming up on sort of a plateau in how much we're being able to vaccinate. Whether that's through the ability of people to get the vaccine or vaccine hesitancy. We were always going to run up against a little bit of a plateau, even with full vaccination, because we have to get the vaccine into kids as well."

RELATED: US likely to miss goal of 70% partially vaccinated by July 4

Q: Pfizer and Moderna are still testing their vaccines in kids under the age of 12, but how different are the younger kids' immune systems when it comes to handling the shots?

A: "When you start getting into the younger ages, this is when your body's still learning to fight off infections. As we get older, we experience more infections and our immune system develops memory to a lot of the things that we've seen before. It's mostly about safety, right? Because we don't know how kids are going to react to the vaccines. Sometimes we have to give less, sometimes an adult dose is just fine."

Q: Tampa Bay is seeing some of its larger school districts decide to make masks voluntary. What’s your reaction to the change?

A: "I think masks voluntary is one thing, as long as you're providing other means of mitigation. There are some places that you just can't do things, like changing the airflow. Some of our schools are very old and have very old air handling systems. In some of our newer schools, you may be able to do, you know, increase the filtration, the flow rate. I think people get lulled into this false sense of security because kids don't seem, on average, to have as many symptoms or as severe symptoms as elderly patients do, but that doesn't mean our kids are not affected by the virus."

RELATED: Mask-wearing, hand-washing, and distance linked to lower rates of Kawasaki disease in children

You can send your questions to 727-577-8522 and we might answer them on 10 Tampa Bay Brightside.

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