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St. Louis County plans to launch back-to-school effort to get kids vaccinated

This COVID vaccine program will work to get eligible children vaccinated before heading back to school.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County is ramping up vaccination efforts with a program that will work to get eligible children vaccinated before heading back to school.

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health will launch a daily effort beginning in mid-July to get kids 12 and older protected against COVID-19, along with other necessary back-to-school immunizations.

The shots will be available for free every day at the county’s three permanent clinics:

  • John C. Murphy Health Center in Berkeley
  • North Central Community Health Center in Pine Lawn
  • South County Health Center in Sunset Hills

Students who go to the clinics to get their vaccinations also can receive physical exams and dental services at those locations. Hours will be extended, and the county also plans to have a program to get vaccines to families who can't make it to one of the clinics.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said it is crucial to get young people vaccinated, and since it can take more than a month to be fully vaccinated, the time to start is now.

RELATED: Free gas and groceries: St. Louis County OKs vaccine incentive program

“With our overall case numbers going up and the delta variant threatening our county, it’s critical that we get young people vaccinated before school returns in August,” Page said Wednesday morning.

RELATED: Doctors concerned delta variant could have 'significant' impact on St. Louis area schools

About half of the county residents eligible for a vaccine have received at least one dose, Page said, but teenagers are way behind that pace. Only about one-third of kids ages 12-18 have started the vaccination process in St. Louis County, which is the lowest rate among all of the county’s age groups.

“Now is the time to get a shot; consider it part of your back-to-school list,” Page said. “This is arguably the most important tool your students need for the new school year.”

Over in North St. Louis County, not all 10,000 students are coming back to the Ferguson-Florissant District in August, but most will be.

Spokesperson Kevin Hampton says, "Ferguson-Florissant was the first to announce that we are going to shift virtual learning."

The district doesn't want to do a repeat of that this upcoming year. That's why it's hosted its own vaccine clinics.

"We’re planning to offer another vaccine opportunity at a back-to-school fair in August," Hampton adds.

It's a way to turn the page and bring back some normalcy.

"We’ll be able to see more students in schools and less interruptions," he explains.

Arm in arm with the county, the districts know they can't do it alone.

So with a new program in place, it can be stronger in its fight.

"It takes all of us working together," Hampton says.

In an effort to get more residents vaccinated, not just school children, St. Louis County is planning to launch an incentive program over the next couple of weeks.

The county council approved the use of up to $875,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to buy gift cards that can be given out to people who roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Parents of children who get vaccinated could be eligible for incentives as well.

“I support this program if that’s what it takes to get those sitting on the fence to get a shot in their arm,” Page said.

With the delta variant surging in Missouri, Page said the county health department has seen an increase in total COVID-19 cases. Week over week, they’ve gone up more than 25% in the county, Page said.

“These cases are preventable,” the county executive stated.

The latest data on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services dashboard shows 48.9% of St. Louis County residents have started the vaccination process, and 43.2% are fully vaccinated.