Medical professionals from across the state are lining up in support of the three safe, effective and widely available COVID vaccines, urging Louisiana residents to go Sleeves Up to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19.

Last week, following FDA authorization and CDC recommendations, the state made Louisianans 12 to 15 years old eligible for the vaccine. So far, nearly 1.4 million people – one out of every three eligible Louisianans – are fully vaccinated. Already 5,725 newly eligible 12 to 15 year-olds, excluding trial participants, have started the vaccination process.

In an open letter to the state on Thursday (May 20), State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter joined 12 pediatricians to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against COVID-19, especially as summer camps begin. Parents should look ahead to the coming school year in August, which can be more normal for their children if COVID-19 is under control and more children are vaccinated.

“While most children have been spared serious complications, many have become ill with COVID-19, and some have been hospitalized and died. COVID-19 has spread through families, causing fear, disruption and sacrifice. Sadly, COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of over 10,000 Louisianans, including 7 children. Vaccination of adults and children is necessary to prevent the continued spread of this virus in our communities and the emergence of the variants that threaten to prolong this pandemic,” the doctors wrote.

“By their social nature, teens have proven to be very effective spreaders of COVID-19. The availability of COVID vaccines in 12- to 15-year-olds can make the coming school year safer and more normal, but only if families and adolescents choose to get vaccinated,” the 13 doctors continued. “Vaccination against COVID-19 is important for the health of all our children.”

In a letter to the editor of The Advocate on Sunday (May 16), Tracey Moffat, Ochsner Health’s chief nursing officer, called choosing to take the COVID-19 one of the “most impactful decisions” Louisianans can make. As the leader of Ochsner’s 8,000 nurses who worked tirelessly alongside other health care heroes to fight the COVID pandemic and save lives, Moffat implored Louisianans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Every vaccine dose saves lives. We’ve seen young, fit people — even children — lose their battles,” Moffat wrote. “Many more deal with life-altering symptoms months after being infected. If you suspect that the healthcare workers who talk nonstop about the vaccine have an angle, you’re right. We want to preserve life.”

Also writing in the Advocate this week, researchers from Louisiana State University and Tulane University highlighted the ways that Louisiana’s medical researchers joined together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, this spirit of cooperation worldwide allowed researchers to “unravel the mysteries of the virus,” wrote Dr. Ustusto Ochoa, director of LSU Health’s Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center and Dr. Prescott Deininger, director of Tulane’s Cancer Center.

“It is critical to understand that every Louisianian can play an important role in defeating COVID-19,” the researchers wrote in The Advocate. “While millions have gotten vaccinated, many more have yet to roll up their sleeves. Vaccines are safe and effective weapons to defeat the virus. Everyone needs to do their part to bolster herd immunity and contribute to our public health. This crisis has proved what can be achieved by working together.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of its largest study of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to date, which found that among health care workers who were fully vaccinated, their risk of becoming sick with COVID-19 was reduced by 94 percent. This effectiveness study covered a network of 500,000 health care professionals. In Louisiana, health care professionals were among the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, starting in December 2020.

There are currently about 1,500 locations in Louisiana that offer the COVID-19 vaccine. To get your questions answered, find a provider or event near you, to get your appointment scheduled or to get your questions answered by a medical professional, just call the COVID Vaccine Hotline at 855-453-0774. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

For a person younger than age 18, parental/caregiver consent is needed to get the shot. To make it easy, the Louisiana Department of Health has developed a consent form that can be found on its website here. The recent guidance issued by the CDC states the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for people between the ages of 12 and 15. In clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine has demonstrated 100 percent effectiveness in children as young as 12 years old with minimal side effects.

The reviews by the FDA and the CDC concluded that people ages 12 and above will not have side effects that are different from people who have already been vaccinated. These side effects are mild and include moderate pain or swelling in the arm where the shot was given, fever, chills, tiredness and/or headaches. These are normal side effects that usually go away within a couple of days.