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Communities focus on vaccinating teens to reduce virus spread, bolster herd immunity

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GRANT COUNTY (WKOW) -- The Grant County Health Department teamed up with Boscobel Pharmacy Wednesday to host a vaccine clinic targeting 16- and 17-year-olds.

"With it opening April 5 to everyone 16 and over, we just thought that was a really great time to get it out in the community that, yeah, we want to take care of these kids and really build our herd immunity in the county," Dr. Michelle Farrell, the owner of Boscobel Pharmacy said.

She said the clinic had around 400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and the health department said every appointment was booked.

"I'm just I'm so excited that there was a willingness and an uptake," Farrell said. "We've heard that there's a potential resistance in the rural areas to getting the vaccine. I just don't feel like we've encountered that. ... Our community's been actively wanting to get healthy and get back to normal."

Farrell said in addition to the 400 doses administered at the clinic, she gave around 100 teenagers vaccine shots at the pharmacy on Wednesday.

"We're definitely seeing interest in that group to get those kids taken care of," she said.

UW Health's Dr. James Conway said vaccinating teens is an important step in Wisconsin's path toward herd immunity.

"Over the last few months, the primary drivers of [virus] circulation have been young adults, and they do include many of the older teenagers as young adults," he said.

He said even though we haven't seen an increase in hospitalizations, that doesn't mean all young people are immune to serious side effects if they were to get sick.

"It's an unpredictable disease," Conway said. "Even though most of them do okay, some don't."

Conway and Farrell both said high vaccination rates will help teenagers get back to the activities they were used to before the pandemic.

"It is their ticket to a little more freedom," Farrell said. "Certainly, teenagers are going to want to congregate. It's important for them to get back in the schools and be face to face. So, in those settings, it's just really important that we're keeping virus under control."

Conway said limiting the virus' spread in young populations will have a positive effect on the rest of the community, as well.

"I'm actually increasingly optimistic that life's gonna look gradually more normal," he said. "One of the only ways we can do that, in a safe and reasonable way, is to continue to build that herd immunity, not just in the people that have the worst outcomes, but in the people that continue to transmit within their communities."

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine that is approved for people younger than 18.