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Health official concerned about low child vaccination rates

December 24, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A top public heath official is concerned that fewer than half of all eligible K-12 public school students in Rhode Island have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to the most recent available data on the state Department of Health’s new website showing vaccination rates among all eligible public school students 5 years and older, 48% are partially vaccinated and 42% are fully vaccinated, WPRI-TV reported.

As of Wednesday, about 74% of the state’s total population had been fully vaccinated, according to department data.

“I’m concerned about, certainly, younger folks,” Dr. Philip Chan, consulting medical director for the department, told the station.

He said while parents being concerned about the health of their kids is “normal and reasonable,” the coronavirus vaccines “have been out for well over a year, we know that they’re safe and effective.”

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The lowest vaccination rates tend to be at elementary schools — where many students only recently became eligible.

Chan also noted a disparity of higher vaccination rates at more affluent suburban schools and lower rates at schools in poorer urban areas.

Younger people are less likely to become severely ill or die after contracting the virus, medical experts say, but the latest surge of infections in Rhode Island is hitting younger people the hardest.