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Marion County health officials work to get more young people vaccinated

The health department is hosting a vaccine clinic aimed at reaching 12-to-17-year-olds at Arsenal Tech High School.

INDIANAPOLIS — Marion County health officials working to get more young people vaccinated, like 12-year-old Hayden Hudzik, who arrived at west side clinic with his mom Friday afternoon for his second shot.

Asked why he thought it was important, Hayden answered, "to stop the spread and take off our masks."

Fourteen-year-old Vishwa Kamalbabu was also glad to roll up his sleeves for his second shot.

"It's pretty important to get back to school and see friends without fear of getting COVID," Kamalbabu said.

Kamalbabu's dad, Kamal Subramini, said he had no reservations about his son getting vaccinated.

"It's better to be vaccinated than not be vaccinated," Subramini said. "He goes out and plays, so we don't want him to be a carrier to others."

But those 12-to-19-year-olds continue to lag well beyond other ages groups when it comes to pulling up their sleeves.

Data from the Marion County Health Department shows just 14% of those ages 12-19 are fully vaccinated. The percentage of people vaccinated in each age group increases as they get older, to a high of 77% for those in their 70s.

Madison Weintraut, a nurse and vaccine site supervisor for the Marion County Health Department, said getting more kids vaccinated is critical to protecting them and others.

"It's critical because there is lot of spread among teens and young adults, especially with new concerns of the Delta variant coming out of the United Kingdom," Weintraut said. "That one is really hitting teens hard and there are concerns it will spread to the U.S."

Friday, the health department launched a social media campaign targeting young people. And one of the three vaccine clinics planned for Saturday, the one at Arsenal Tech High School, is specifically aimed at reaching 12-to-17-year-olds and runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Grace Allen, 15, who received her second dose Friday said she was glad to get her vaccine card. For her, it means getting back to the activities she loves and seeing family members who are immune compromised.

"Now that I'm fully vaccinated, I can go see my relatives again that live far away and see my friends again," she said. "It's going to be big for me getting out of the house."

Her sister, Abby, who is 20, pointed out, "In two weeks it will be your first sleepover in what, two years?"

Abby said she understood why some might be hesitant about getting vaccinated. Her advice: "I would say do your research," she said. "It's your body, your choice, but I really think it's best for all of us to get to herd immunity."