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COVID cases down, Rockingham health head hopes parents will vaccinate kids 5-12 if Pfizer vax approved
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COVID cases down, Rockingham health head hopes parents will vaccinate kids 5-12 if Pfizer vax approved

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WENTWORTH — COVID-19 cases continued to decline in the Rockingham County Schools, as well as in the general community this week, but risk of infection was still pretty high, according to local health department statistics.

While the state average infection rate was 5.9% on Friday, Rockingham recorded 9.1%, much higher than the 5% or lower rate recommended as a safe zone by the Centers for Disease Control.

Meanwhile county health department officials recently estimated that about 8% of all new infections are being diagnosed in the 5-12 age group that is not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

Pfizer/Biontech on Oct. 7 asked the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency approval of a reduced dose of its COVID-19 vaccine for youngsters 5-12. The FDA is expected to meet on Oct. 26 and announce its decision, according to the New York Times.

In September, Pfizer released new data to support its claim that two 10-microgram shots of the vaccine stimulate a “robust” immune response in kids in the 5-12 age group. The dosage is 1/3 the amount of teen and adult doses and produced side effects that were similar to those seen in ages 16-25, multiple national news outlets have reported.

If the vaccine is approved for the younger age group, Rockingham County Public Health Director Trey Wright said, “I am hopeful that parents will have their child vaccinated as we have seen an increase in (infection) in the younger age groups.’’

But Wright is concerned about parent hesitancy.

“I do think parents will be somewhat reluctant,’’ he said. “My advice is to do your research through evidence-based journals and with medical professionals.’’

The health department is poised to get shots to the younger school kids who fill kindergarten through seventh-grade classrooms.

“Currently we are in communication with local health systems to provide onsite vaccinations,’’ Wright said about the possibility of delivering inoculations to school campuses.

The county faces a further hurdle: getting the majority of its residents vaccinated. A recent tally showed 45% of the county is fully vaccinated, about 41,000 of the rural region’s roughly 91,000 residents. Another 3,200, or 4% of residents, are only partially vaccinated, Wright said.

By contrast, the statewide average of vaccination of eligible adults is 65%, according to the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services.

School campuses have mostly seen declines in new cases and required quarantines since Sept. 27, according to Rockingham County Schools administrators.

Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3, 489 students and 20 staff were forced to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19. During that same time, 73 students and 3 staff were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

Computations from Oct. 4-10 show 405 students and 14 staff in the RCS district were made to quarantine, while 65 students and three staff tested positive for COVID-19.

High schools and middle schools saw the most infection. Morehead High School had the highest number of new cases Oct. 4-10 with 10 new cases in students and one staff case. Rockingham County High School ranked second with eight new student cases. Reidsville High School and McMichael High School of Mayodan tied with five new cases each among students.

With 2,208 people hospitalized across the state, only 12 Rockingham County residents were admitted to hospitals last week due to COVID-19, the CDC reported. And the county diagnosed 197 new cases. The Rockingham death toll stands at 192, the county health department said. Statewide, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 17,410 residents, according to the NCDHHS.

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