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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

'We need to keep schools open': Ohio health leaders urge those 16 and up to get COVID-19 vaccine

On Thursday, Franklin County moved back to Level 4 of Ohio’s COVID-19 advisory system.

As cases of COVID-19 are going up in Ohio, health leaders are urging those 16 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Thursday, Franklin County moved back to Level 4 of Ohio’s COVID-19 advisory system. Despite moving backward, officials with Columbus Public Health are not recommending a stay home advisory. Additionally, Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said Level 4 does not mean schools should close or switch to remote learning.

"Children being out of school, out of sports, not having social contact for almost a year, is devastating," said Dr. Rustin Morse from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. "We need to keep the schools open. It's imperative, it's safe, it's the right thing to do."

That's why health leaders are urging parents to talk to their kids about getting the COVID-19 vaccine to help stop the spread.

"There's almost no reason for a healthy 16-year-old child to not get vaccinated to protect him, herself, their family, and the community," Morse said.

Katie Waskowski, 16, is a high school student in Parma, Ohio. She chose to get her COVID-19 vaccine a few days ago. 10TV asked her why.

"So, that we could have a track season and my little brother has asthma and I didn't want to risk him getting sick," she said.

Waskowski said as an athlete, it was tough having her season put on hold due to the virus. Now that she's running again, her mom wanted her to be safe and help protect others.

"We discussed that with her being a traveling athlete and going to multiple schools, multiple competitions, I thought it might be a smart idea considering she's running and doing competition without a mask," Danielle Waskowski said. "Her important thing is getting good so she can go to college and possibly get scholarships, things like that. If schools are shut down, if kids can't go to school, there's no opportunities like that for her."

Those aged 16 and 17 must have parental consent for any vaccine and must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to receive a vaccine. These individuals are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use with people under age 18.

Pfizer said it hopes to make its COVID-19 vaccine available to kids in the 12 to 15-year-old age group before the start of the 2021 school year.