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With school around the corner, kids prepare for return to school during pandemic

The start of school is just around the corner and we know parents have a lot of questions about COVID-19 and the vaccines for teens.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Public health meets private practice. Words of advice coming from Dr. Jennifer Dillaha of the Arkansas Department of Health and Dr. Joe Elser, longtime pediatric specialist at CHI St. Vincent. 

The subject: back to school 2021 in the time of a COVID resurgence.

"As bad as COVID is, we have to for kids' sake, we have to get back to some kind of normal," said Dr. Elser.

"There won't be a whole lot of changes," Dr. Dillaha explained. "Many of the things that schools were doing last year,  they'll likely be doing this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

"The virtual stuff just doesn't work for most kids. The social interactions that kids need, they missed. There are a lot of kids whose nutrition, a significant part of it during the day, occurs at the school," Dr. Elser said.

"And one of the most important things that we can do is for everyone who is unvaccinated to wear a mask to prevent the spread," Dr. Dillaha said.

"I recommend anyone who can get the vaccine to get the vaccine," Elser added.

"Especially those people who are around the younger students who cannot be vaccinated yet," Dillaha said.

The 2020 version of COVID was known for not affecting children under 12 as much.

"That's not true anymore, you know at children's hospital, there are sick kids, really, really sick kids in the hospital with COVID right now," Dr. Elser said.

Dr. Dillaha has the numbers. Over 290 children in Arkansas under 12 have been admitted to hospitals. Thirty-two of those are in the ICU. There have been two pediatric deaths in Arkansas. Only 15% of kids 12 to 17 in Arkansas are fully vaccinated.

Pediatricians, family medicine doctors, they're all working hard to help the kids get caught up and also provide them with the COVID-19 vaccine at the time that they come in for their routine vaccinations," Dillaha said.

And to parents worried about vaccine side effects, Dr. Elser has a quick answer...

"There's problems with everything we do in medicine. There are some people that will get liver failure from taking Tylenol, but we don't tell people not to take Tylenol if they need to," he explained.

About the shot, a parting shot -- from two doctors with over 60 years of medical wisdom between them.

"No person is an island, that we are all a part of the community and that no one is safe until everyone is safe," Dr. Dillaha added.

"I had six kids. I've always lived by the thing if something ever happened to my kid and I could have prevented it, then I live with that the rest of my life," Dr. Elser said.

Clinical trials of vaccines for six to 12 year olds are ongoing.

Both Dr. Elser and Dr. Dillaha told us we should know something by October.

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