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Jha: Vaccinating more teens will help schools reopen

May 4, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Federal authorization to use Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, which is expected to come soon, will not only help get more of the general population protected, but will also help improve prospects for fully reopening high schools in the fall, coronavirus expert Dr. Ashish Jha said Tuesday.

“Right now, we have about 44% of Americans who have gotten at least one shot. These 12- to 15-year-olds represent another about 4 or 5% of the population — about 16 million,” Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said in his weekly podcast hosted by The Providence Journal.

“Let’s say half of them get vaccinated in the next month or so,” he said. “That will cause another dampening effect on lowering infection rates across the country.”

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When schools reopened this past year, high schools were always the hardest hit by coronavirus outbreaks.

With more high school students vaccinated, “there just is no explanation anymore and no medical and public health reason that high schools cannot be open 100%, full-time normal, this fall,” he said.

He also said he expects the federal government this summer to lift the emergency use authorization label from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and give them full license status, which could change the minds of some people who have been hesitant to get an “experimental” shot.

“And if that helps some people feel better, that’ll be great,” he said.

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HEALTH DEPARTMENT DATA

Three key metrics tracked by the state Department of Health to measure the prevalence of the coronavirus in Rhode Island have fallen for the second consecutive week, according to data released Tuesday.

The percent positive rate for the week that ended Saturday fell to 1.6% from 1.9% the previous week.

New hospital admissions dropped from 134 to 112 for the week that ended Saturday.

And the number of new cases per 100,000 population dipped to 157 as of Saturday, from 192 the previous week.

The department also reported almost 200 new confirmed cases of the disease and three more virus-related fatalities, for a total of almost 149,000 known cases and 2,681 deaths.

More than 398,000 people in the state have now been fully vaccinated, according to department data.