Editorial: Youth ages 12 to 17 should take advantage of the opportunity and get the COVID-19 vaccine

We have come a long way in our fight against COVID-19 and endured many heartbreaks and disruptions along the way.

Now public health officials in North Georgia are "strongly" recommending that youth ages 12 to 17 -- tweens and teens -- get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which has been approved for that age group, "for a safer, more enjoyable summer, to get ready for the new school year and to protect themselves and the community from COVID-19."

We second that recommendation so that we can continue to see a lessening of COVID-19 cases in our area and so that a longed-for sense of normalcy, however that may look, can be achieved as quickly -- but most importantly -- as safely as possible.

The North Georgia Health District notes that health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties are offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and although no appointment is needed, "some health departments are capable of maintaining only a limited number of doses, so it is best to call the health department ahead of arrival to confirm (the) Pfizer vaccine is available that day." There is no charge for the vaccine and no identification is required.

The health departments are also expected to hold vaccine clinics to make it easier for the young residents to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Information about such clinics will be available at https://nghd.org/news.

"Minors must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian to be vaccinated," the Health District said.

"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research has shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus in children ages 12 through 15," the Health District said. "Previous research has shown that the vaccine is 95% effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms in people aged 16 and older."

Those in this age group are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose.

"They can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance," the Health District said. "In the U.S., children who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine or get a COVID-19 test after a known exposure if they don't have symptoms, with some exceptions for specific settings."

This is a tremendous opportunity for youth ages 12 to 17 in our area to become vaccinated and protect themselves and others from this horrible virus. We encourage our youth to take advantage of the opportunity and for their parents and mentors to guide them and support them in this important public health push.

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