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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Health Officials Urge Students To Get Vaccinated Before School Begins

School hallway.
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Public health officials in Helena are urging parents to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments for their teens before school starts. State education officials say parents know what’s best for their kids.

According to Lewis and Clark County Public Health, 30% of teenagers living in the area are fully vaccinated. About 36% are partially vaccinated.

Drenda Niemann, Lewis and Clark County’s public health officer, says those numbers aren’t as high as she’d like.

“We want them to go back to school. We want them to not be disrupted again like they were last year and the best way to do that is to follow the CDC guidelines and to get vaccinated,” she says.

With many schools starting at the end of August, parents are running out of time to get their students fully vaccinated before the first day of classes. But Niemann says it’s never too late to get the shot.

“The more people we can get vaccinated, the better protection our entire community receives.”

Niemann says people hesitant about getting vaccinated should talk to their primary care provider or local public health officials.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction is not working on messaging to encourage students to get the vaccine. Chris Averill, a spokesperson for Superintendent Elsie Arntzen, wrote in a statement that “Parents know what is best for their children.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the pandemic and promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning.

Of the three vaccines available in the U.S., only Pfizer is approved for teens aged 12 and older. It takes five weeks to build full protection against the virus after receiving the first shot.