01STOCK_VACCINE

Local health officials are encouraging more young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine before the start of the new school year as variants of the virus continue to circulate.

“It’s important to get vaccinated to protect yourself from the variants that are circulating as well as the original strain of COVID-19. All three of the vaccines offer protection against the variants,” Rock County Publicc Health Department communications specialist Jessica Turner said. “By getting more people vaccinated, it decreases the chance of more variants surfacing.”

More young people in Rock County and across the state are getting vaccinated.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 48.1% of the total population in the state has completed a vaccine series. That includes 25% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 34.5% of 16- to 17-year-olds.

The total number of 12- to 18-year-olds vaccinated in Rock County is 4,715.

About 29% of the county’s 12- to 15-year-olds have gotten the first dose, and 25% of that age group is fully vaccinated. About 38% of 16- to 17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose, and 33% have completed the series, according to data from the health department.

“We’d like to see them a little bit higher with the school year coming up, and we are doing everything we can to increase those numbers,” Turner said.

The health department has offered vaccination clinics at schools in Beloit, Janesville, Clinton, Evansville, Milton, Edgerton and Orfordville.

Turner said the Pfizer vaccine is offered for 12- to 17-year-olds and adults. When in stock, they offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one-dose vaccination available for those 18 and older.

People wanting to be vaccinated are encouraged to visit rockcountyshot.com or schedule a shot at a local pharmacy or health care facility.

“The more we can vaccinate, the better. We are continuing our efforts to get those children vaccinated as well as the parents,” Turner said.

Turner said the health department will continue to monitor data and vaccination rates to determine how best to respond.

“Along with offering vaccine clinics, we are doing outreach to the community to try and provide information and combat misinformation. The risk of adverse reactions to the vaccine are still significantly less than getting COVID. You are more likely to have serious health effects from getting COVID than from the vaccine,” Turner said.

Turner said the more people who are vaccinated, the less chance there is for more variants.

“There is always the chance a variant could become more dangerous. Those mutations happen when there is more spread. The more people we can get vaccinated, the less likely we are to be seeing those variants,” she said.

Presence of the delta variant of the coronavirus has not yet been confirmed in the county, although it could be here. The alpha, beta and gamma variants have been identified in Rock County.

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