Dr. Dobbs says there is no intention to mandate children be vaccinated for school attendance.

The Mississippi State Department of Health is following FDA and CDC’s approval and now allowing children ages 12 to 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration announced that they have cleared the Pfizer vaccine for use by children 12 and up on Monday. Two days later, the Center for Disease Control also agreed with their assessment. Pfizer is a two step vaccine which requires the shots to be given within a 21 day period.

“The CDC now recommends the vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky announced in a written statement released Wednesday night.

Nationally, this will cover an additional 17 million children in the U.S.

The MSDH did a survey of 11,000 parents, asking if they would consider getting their children vaccinated. Of that, 52% of those surveyed said they would. There has been one death reported of a child who was positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs, MSDH

MSDH State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said they are very happy to see that Mississippi children will not be eligible for the vaccine. Children receiving the vaccine must be accompanied by an adult. While there are still vaccine sites available, doses are now also being given to family doctors to be administered.

“Evidence shows that the vaccine is effective and very safe,” said Dobbs. “You’re likely to either get the vaccine or the virus. You’re better off just getting the vaccine.”

Dobbs did assure that there is no intention to mandate that children receive the vaccine in order to go to school.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said there are now plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated and the state has a full supply. Roughly 27% of Mississippi’s population are fully vaccinated and a little over 30% have received their first dose. While those over the age of 65 are 70% vaccinated, they still make up 76% of the deaths occurring.

“We have opportunities now for everyone to get vaccinated,” said Byers. He urged individuals to do so.

Mississippi has administered over 1.7 million vaccine shots and over 900,000 people have received at least one shot. MSDH says 40% of the weekly doses are being given to the African American individuals.

Dr. Byers announced a new initiative being launched in K-12 schools. MSDH has developed a program for school districts interested in being involved, in which they will offer testing for asymptomatic individuals. Schools who opt in will be given rapid tests, supplied by the MSDH. Students and teachers who would like to participate and are asymptomatic could test early and prevent further spread.

Students must receive consent from their parents in order to receive on sight testing. This does not apply to symptomatic individuals who they recommend seeing a physician.

“If you don’t get vaccinated, not only do you run the risk of infection but there can be deaths among all age groups and children can serve as a spreader to those in more vulnerable age groups,” said Byers.

When it comes to masks and social distancing, Byers said it is important to look at it situation by situation and use common sense. He said for individuals who are inside and everyone is completely vaccinated it is likely safe to not wear masks, however if it is a larger group and it is unclear if everyone is vaccinated, he said to continue social distancing and wearing masks to decrease the potential for spread.

However, even as MSDH was holding their press conference, the White House shared the updated guidance from the CDC stating that fully vaccinated persons do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most settings.

Dr. Jim Craig outlined what vaccine sites will be available in the next week and how pediatricians can enroll to receive vaccines to administer to children.

With an emphasis on children, he said there are currently no conversations that would allow school nurses to administer vaccines.