The effort is on to vaccinate Erie County's young people against COVID

May 5, 2021

Erie County is showing sign of having the same problems getting young people vaccinated against COVID-19 as with older groups.

The statistics show a problem with COVID among young people, although it may be easing. In a briefing Tuesday, county officials said the numbers are down slightly, but there were 222 cases last week in the 18-22 age group, for which there is a vaccine.

"We're seeing a lot more clusters," said County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "We're seeing clusters and cases in child care centers, youth sports teams. Sports teams, where we are seeing the most, it's football, cheerleading and volleyball. We are also now seeing outbreaks, transmission in K-12 classrooms."

Credit Erie County Department of Health

That's even with many parents and high school age sports supporters pushing for the return to classrooms and the return to sports like wrestling, which Erie County won't allow. County Executive Mark Poloncarz said given the proven virus transmissions in some local classrooms, the Health Department remains cautious of approving some risky contact sports, at least until there are more vaccinations among the high school crowd.

Complicating the numbers is the fact that only one vaccine is approved for 16- and 17-year-olds and nothing yet approved for those younger. Besides that, it's the parents' call on vaccination.

Burstein said parents are being difficult.

"Parents of infected cases are refusing to disclose the information about the other kids in the households, so that they don't have to go into quarantine," she said. But we end up finding out who they are. The schools tell us when we do our investigations. So we do find out. So, please, make all our lives easier, make everybody safer and please tell us everybody who could have come into contact with your case."

Credit Erie County Department of Health

Burstein said there were 1,000 vaccinations for young people Saturday in three prom environments, but there's a need for more outreach.

"There are more adolescents that live in the suburbs compared to the city, so our suburban sites had a little bit higher numbers of 16- and 17-year-olds compared to the city," she said. "We want to reach out to everybody and I think we have to get some more numbers of 16- and 17-year-olds vaccinated before we can say anything about the demographics of that vaccinated age group."