With some schools and colleges beginning their 2021-2022 school years in the coming weeks, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is strongly encouraging all students, ages 12 and up, to get vaccinated so they can protect themselves and others against COVID-19.
It is important for students to get vaccinated as quickly as possible since currently only the two-dose Pfizer brand vaccine is authorized for ages 12 and older. It takes five weeks from the time of first vaccination with the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who receive the first dose must wait at least three weeks to get their second dose, and full vaccination, and therefore maximum protection, doesn’t occur until two weeks after the second dose is administered.
“It takes about five weeks to achieve full vaccination, so students who are eligible for the vaccine don’t have a lot of time to spare if they want to protect themselves and their friends during the upcoming school year,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, Public Health Director. “We want all students in South Carolina to focus on learning and not have to worry about COVID-19 when the new school year begins. That can be a reality if enough of them roll up their sleeves and get their shots.”
Fully vaccinated students won’t have to miss out on school, sports games and practices, and other extracurricular and social events if they’re identified as a close contact to someone who has COVID-19. An unvaccinated student who is identified as a close contact will need to quarantine and refrain from all school and sports activities during their quarantine period.
In addition to students, parents are also encouraged to get their vaccinations. Many parents regularly visit school campuses for meetings, volunteer events, and several other reasons. It is equally important for them to protect themselves and their kids against COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. Ages 18 and up are also eligible for Pfizer, as well as the Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) brand vaccines.
With most schools across the nation now on summer break, DHEC expects the CDC to publish its updated school operations guidance for the 2021-2022 academic year within the next few weeks. Once that is made available, DHEC will review those updated guidelines and use them to develop guidance for South Carolina schools.
“Our goal is to get those guidelines out as quickly as possible,” Traxler added. “In the meantime, we cannot stress how important it is for everyone eligible to get vaccinated before the new school year commences. Parents, teachers, and students deserve the right to attend or visit school without worrying about getting sick. Vaccinations are safe and effective and will go a long way in protecting our schools and colleges.”