Washington Department of Health reports 30% of kids 5-11 are fully vaccinated

Shawn Rocco/Duke University/Reuters

SPOKANE, Wash. — With the Washington mask mandate lifting on March 21, many wonder if schools will return to normal by then.

The Washington Board of Health’s technical advisory group recently said students are not recommended to get vaccinated. They took a vote on whether the COVID-19 vaccine should be on the state’s list of required immunizations. Six members voted yes, seven voted no, and four were unsure.

RELATED: Wash. Board of Health’s technical advisory group decides not to recommend requiring COVID vaccine for students

According to the Washington State Department of Health, less than 30% of children ages five to 11 years in Washington are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Children under five do not have a current vaccine available.

RELATED: ‘A little upset’: Families disappointed with Pfizer’s delay in vaccines for kids under 5

Older children have higher rates, like kids ages 12 to 15 that are 54-percent vaccinated, and kids 16 to 17 are 61-percent vaccinated. However, these rates are still much lower than the state’s adult population.

UW Medicine’s Dr. Beth Ebel is calling for families to vaccinate their children before the mask mandate expires.

“As those masks come off, getting your child vaccinated is safe. It’ll protect them from getting COVID, and will help them stay in school with their friends so they can continue to learn,” said Ebel, a practitioner at Harborview Medical Center.

Appointments for vaccines and boosters are widely available across most clinics, hospitals and pharmacies across the Inland Northwest.

“The vaccine has been shown to protect against kids getting really sick, and also spreading [COVID] to their families. That’s a critical factor,” said Ebel. “The vaccine dose for younger kids between 5 and 11 is reduced. What we’ve also found is that even with that lower dose, those kids get a better antibody response, and presumably better protection than even adults. So, it’s a good situation. They have fewer effects from getting the shot, and they get better protection.”

The vaccine for children under 5 is expected to come out around early April, and most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted before then.

READ: CDC to significantly ease pandemic mask guidelines Friday