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Child vaccinations could help chart path to herd immunity as some communities struggle to vaccinate

“What that will do is give another 25 million people potentially that can get vaccinated,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed of USF.

TAMPA, Fla — News that the Food and Drug Administration plans to give Pfizer Emergency Use Authorization to help vaccinate children ages 12-15 was welcome news among pharmacists who say this could help the area chart a path toward herd immunity, especially as some communities remain vaccine-hesitant.

“What that will do is give another 25 million people potentially that can get vaccinated,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed, dean of the Taneja College of Pharmacy at the University of South Florida.

He said this could offset some effects of vaccine hesitancy and keep the country moving toward herd immunity. However, a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows just 29 percent of parents surveyed plan to get their kids vaccinated right away. Another 32 percent plan to wait a while, 15 percent say they'll only do it if a school requires it and 19 percent say they won't get them vaccinated at all. 

Doctors say that could backfire.

"When we...get into the fall for people who are not vaccinated, if we have an infection that may break out in the school, we're going to have to go and quarantine children--that means that people are going to have to start taking off from work,” Sneed said.

Now that more age ranges are available and vaccines are available at most pharmacies on a walk-in basis, doctors hope this will increase vaccination rates in areas that struggle.

"I work in a rural community at Hills pharmacy, and a lot of those people don't want to get the vaccine for one reason or the other, they want to do more research, they want the drug to actually get approval, their political views..." said Dr. Sandeep Singh of Hills Pharmacy in Zephyrhills.

Singh says convincing his Zephyrhills community to get vaccinated has been one of his hardest tasks, but he hopes pharmacies like his transitioning to walk-in vaccine services will make it easier for people to say yes.

"Getting on the spot, it will help definitely get a lot of people,” he said. "I really urge everybody to please go get the vaccine, whatever your beliefs are, whatever political party, you may have. It's your patriotic duty to responsibility."

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