City of Independence, Missouri

Region’s public health directors encourage pediatric vaccination, masking in public and schools

The region’s public health directors are asking Kansas City metropolitan area residents to continue the fight against COVID-19 by vaccinating eligible children and wearing a mask while in public and in school settings.

“COVID-19 isn’t over. We’re still seeing rates of community transmission that are much higher than where we want to be,” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. “While it’s great news that the Pfizer vaccine was approved for children ages 5 to 11, we recommend residents continue to wear a mask in public and in schools until more of our population is vaccinated.”

Currently, 54% of the Kansas City region’s population is fully vaccinated and 63% has initiated a vaccine regimen, according to the Kansas City Region COVID-19 Data Hub.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve encouraged a layered approach to protecting yourself and your family from COVID-19,” said Gary Zaborac, director of the Clay County Public Health Center. “Vaccination offers a strong layer of protection for kids when combined with wearing a mask. Reach out to your child’s pediatrician or pharmacy to learn how to get the vaccine. You don’t need a prescription or referral – and it’s free. You can also call your local health department for more information.”

On Nov. 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to allow vaccination of children ages 5 to 11. The vaccine has been rigorously reviewed to ensure safety and efficacy.

“We all want our children to be healthy and we want them to stay in school,” said Dr. Jennifer Watts, chief emergency management medical officer, with Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “Some children will get vaccinated in the coming days and weeks. Other families are still deciding. To protect all children, including those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, we need to continue wearing masks to keep schools safe and open for our kids.”

Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children ages 5 to 11. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated it will review recommendations for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as soon as data is available. The FDA is reviewing vaccination data from trials involving children under age 5.

The public health directors also offered these reminders:

  • A COVID-19 infection may take up to two weeks to appear after an exposure, and some people may not have symptoms but still be able to spread the virus.
  • An exposure to COVID-19 is defined as having been within 6 feet of a positive individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
  • Vaccinated individuals who have been exposed should get tested 3-5 days after exposure. Unvaccinated individuals should quarantine and get tested immediately. If the test is negative, they should test again 5-7 days after the initial exposure or as soon as any symptoms develop.

Vaccination data on some local public health departments’ dashboards may indicate a decrease in vaccination progress with 5- 11-year-old children now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. This is because the increase in the number of people eligible to get vaccinated (the denominator in the equation) could cause the percentage of vaccinated people to decrease.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine or testing location near you, visit PrepareMetroKC.org.