The key factor to herd immunity from COVID-19 could be your children

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Wisconsin health experts are saying up to 80 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order for us to reach herd immunity.

That responsibility could be up to your children.

Wisconsin children are last on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

“Children are certainly an important part of achieving population-level immunity,” Gundersen Health System pediatrician Dr. Raj Naik said.

About 22 percent of Wisconsin’s population is people 18 and under.

“We can’t get to where we want to without them being ultimately vaccinated,” Naik said.

Governor Tony Evers said this past Tuesday that every Wisconsinite age 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine starting April 5.

But the only vaccine 16 and 17-year-olds can get right now is Pfizer’s.

“I think there’s a very high likelihood that ultimately, these vaccines will be proven to be safe and effective in children,” Naik said. “And that at some point, we will work them into our normal childhood immunization schedule.”

Pfizer says its vaccine is 100 percent effective in kids ages 12 through 15 from its latest study.

“That’s not necessarily surprising,” Naik said. “Children have been lower risk for COVID or complications all along.”

Some parents from the La Crosse area say they would allow their kids to get vaccinated.

“We’ve haven’t had any negative experiences with vaccines,” Onalaska resident Emily Stacey said, who is a mother of five. “No bad side effects or anything. And I feel like it’s important for them to be safe in school and all their activities.”

“After they do a few more test trials and they see the results in it, yeah, my plan is,” La Crosse resident Travis Bell said, who is a father of four.

But one mom from Westby says she’s undecided about it.

“We might at some point,” Rachel Portner said, who is a mother of six. “It’s not a huge priority for me or for my children, just because it’s not something we’re too concerned about them getting.”

Dr. Naik says he expects kids ages 12 through 15 will receive their first doses of the vaccine by the summer, and for kids younger than that by the start of 2022.

23 percent of La Crosse County residents have been fully vaccinated.

That’s higher than the entire state, in which about 19 percent of Wisconsinites have completed the vaccine series.