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Officials urge importance of vaccine as July 4th, new school year approach

Published on June 21, 2021

Huntsville health and education leaders continue to stress the importance of vaccinations for all eligible community members, even as infection numbers remain low.

Officials made their comments at Monday’s Huntsville-Area COVID-19 Update, the first since May 13. They also spoke about the importance of remaining vigilant against the virus as the July 4th holiday and start of the 2021-2022 school year approach.

“If you are in a big crowd and you haven’t had your vaccine, put your mask on,” said Tracy Doughty, senior vice president of Huntsville Hospital. “What we don’t want to go back to is where we were six months ago when the hospitals were overran and we had to wear masks everywhere.”

Vaccine hesitancy remains a concern, especially for school-aged children and their parents. As of Monday, only 20.2% of those ages 12-17 in Madison County have received their first dose.

To help boost vaccination rates among students ages 12 and older, Huntsville City Schools and Huntsville Hospital will host a vaccine clinic Thursday, June 24, for first doses and Thursday, July 15 for second doses. The clinic will be at the Huntsville High School gymnasium from 1-3:30 p.m. both days.

“What we do know about COVID is that kids do get sick with COVID,” said Dr. Kelli Stringer, a pediatrician at Huntsville Hospital. “The trials have proven that the vaccines are safer for children than COVID. A lot of what we hear in the community is that kids don’t get sick and that’s just not true.”

Stringer cited studies that indicate COVID vaccines are just as effective in children as they are adults. Additionally, the side effects are the same as what you see after adults are vaccinated.

Anyone over 12 years of age is eligible to receive the vaccine. Appointments can be booked online through HuntsvilleHospital.org, ALCOVIDVaccine.gov as well as through VaccineFinder.gov. Many clinics are also taking walk-in appointments.

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent of Learning Supports Dr. Clarence Sutton said summertime activities are underway and officials are doing all they can to ensure the upcoming school year is a success.

“We currently have summer learning academies throughout our district due to our protocols and our research from our health department,” he said. “It has been a great success. We are excited for the 2021-22 school year, if we keep these things in place.”

In other developments, Doughty said Huntsville Hospital will allow one visitor to visit a COVID-19-postive patient for two hours a day starting June 24.

“We think it’s important to have visitors, especially close family of your loved ones,” he said, adding the hospital will provide gowns, gloves and other needed tools to visitors.

For more information, visit the City’s COVID-19 website at HuntsvilleAL.gov/COVID19.