Memorial Health doctor attributes low vaccination rates as part of reason schools are returning to virtual learning

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 5:29 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Several school districts in the Coastal Empire forced to return to virtual learning this week due to the coronavirus.

Local health officials we spoke with say part of that reason is low vaccination within children that are eligible.

Here’s the latest look at how many children and teens have received at least one dose in Georgia. Over 15 percent for ages 5 to 9, just over 37 percent for 10 to 14 year-olds and 52 percent for ages 15 to 19.

Local health leader say those low vaccination numbers are contributing to school closures. WTOC talked to Memorial’s pediatric disease specialist Thursday.

Dr. Stephen Thacker says with prior resurgences of COVID-19 cases and with the current one, we have learned the ways to keep children in school and learning in a safe environment.

Dr. Thacker says it all comes down to using the tools we have. He reminds parents to consider getting their children vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. He says continuing to wear their masks in the school buildings and even when they’re out and about around people whose vaccination status they don’t know can be the difference between the schools staying open or having to go virtual.

Right now, Dr. Thacker says Memorial has three pediatric patients who have COVID-19.

“I think we’re seeing the consequences of some under vaccination in classroom environments right now locally with classrooms going all virtual, some schools in the region going all virtual because we just didn’t get enough folks vaccinated to keep everyone protected,” Dr. Thacker said.

Dr. Thacker stresses that there are places people can take their children, ages 5 and up, to get vaccinated.

“For 5 and up we’ve got access to the vaccine now and it’s both safe and effective and you’ve got access points to get it. Our children’s hospital continues to have a family center, great experience for those families that want to bring their child to a very kid-friendly environment to get the vaccine happening every Thursday afternoon starting at 3:30.”

We also checked in with St. Joseph’s/Candler. They say they have no pediatric COVID-19 cases right now. They say they are continuing to see an increase in positive cases and that the admissions to the hospital are growing, but they are seeing far fewer critically ill patients.

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