JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines that people who have been vaccinated can ditch the mask, some parents and health officials are concerned about what it means for younger children who still can’t get the vaccine.
“We have no way of really knowing who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t. So there may be those who take a liberty and say well, others are not wearing masks so I don’t have to wear my mask, either and this could actually end up leading to an uptake and more infections,” said Dr. Trachella Johnson Foy, who owns a family practice in Jacksonville.
In St. Johns County, 48% of the population is fully vaccinated. But in Duval County it’s only 30% and just under 34% statewide.
“So that means if you go into a room of 10 people. There are seven there who are not. So yes, the 30% can feel safe, but those other 70% still are at high risk, specifically here in Jacksonville,” she said. “So my hope is that people hear the story that you are really trying to push through them, which is, go get vaccinated.”
Dr. Johnson Foy added that we are nowhere near reaching herd immunity and if people who are not vaccinated choose not to wear masks, it could lead to another spike in COVID-19 infections.
“We’ll end up being in a place we were last year, which will be a step backward. So I want people to truly hear this as, go get vaccinated, then those freedoms come,” Foy said.
So what about parents who have children under 12 who are still not eligible for the vaccine?
“Parents are still going to have to be very diligent if their children are not vaccinated, so they don’t fall into that category of people who can go completely maskless,” she said, “That is a part of what my concern and others are is that this relaxation will not incentivize people in a way because there’s no real way to tell who is truly vaccinated.”
Several preliminary clinical studies are currently underway in younger children and pediatricians hope the vaccine will be available to them by fall.