Local health officials are encouraging more young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine in time for the new school year as variants of the virus continue to circulate.

“It’s important to get vaccinated to protect yourself from the variants that are circulating as well as the original strain of COVID-19. All three of the vaccines offer protection against the variants. By getting more people vaccinated, it decreases the chance of more variants surfacing,” said Rock County Health Department Communications Specialist Jessica Turner.

More young people in Rock County and across the state are getting vaccinated.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 48.1% of the total population in the state has completed the vaccine series. There have been 25% of 12 to 15-year olds fully vaccinated; and 34% of 15 to 18-year-olds fully vaccinated.

The total number of 12 to 18-year-olds vaccinated in Rock County is 4,715.

About 29% of 12 to 15-year olds have gotten the first dose; and 25% of that age group is fully vaccinated. About 38% of 16- to 17-year olds have gotten at least one dose; and 33% have completed the series, according to data from Rock County Public Health Department.

“We’d like to see them a little bit higher with the school year coming up and we are doing everything we can to increase those numbers,” Turner said.

The health department has offered vaccination clinics at schools in Beloit, Janesville, Clinton, Evansville, Milton, Edgerton and Parkview.

On Wednesday, the health department was offering vaccines for students, staff and the community at Hackett Elementary School in Beloit. There was a vaccine clinic at Merrill Elementary on July 7. Another clinic will be offered on July 28 at Merrill and Aug. 4 at Hackett.

“We will continue to support and collaborate with our community partners to ensure the availability of vaccinations to all individuals ages 12 and older by offering our school sites as vaccine clinics,” added School District of Beloit Superintendent Dan Keyser.

Turner said the Pfizer vaccine is offered for 12 to 17-year-olds and adults. When in stock, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is offered which is a one-dose vaccination available for those 18 and above.

If people want to see upcoming clinics, Turner said they can visit rockcountyshot.com or schedule with local pharmacies and healthcare providers.

“The more we can vaccinate the better. We are continuing our efforts to get those children vaccinated as well as the parents,” she said. “Beloit Area Community Health has started working with the Beloit School District to offer additional clinics. Homecare pharmacy has been working with the Beloit Turner School District.”

Turner said the health department will continue to monitor data and vaccination rates to determine how to best respond and where clinics need to be offered.

“Along with offering vaccine clinics, we are doing outreach to the community to try and provide information and combat misinformation. The risk of adverse reactions to the vaccine are still significantly less than getting COVID. You are more likely to have serious health effects from getting COVID than the vaccine,” Turner said.

Turner said the more people who are vaccinated, the less chance there is for more variants.

“There is always the chance a variant could become more dangerous. Those mutations happen when there is more spread. The more people we can get vaccinated the less likely we are to be seeing those variants,” she said.

The Delta has not been confirmed in the county, although it could be here. The alpha, beta, and gamma variants have been identified in Rock County.

South Beloit School District Superintendent Scott Fisher said there was a vaccination clinic held on June 16. There will be another one at the high school in August.

Beloit Health System will be offering Pfizer vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19 to those age 12 and older at a vaccine clinic from 10 a.m.—3 p.m. July 28 at the Vaccine Clinic Center, 1904 Hubbe Parkway.

The vaccine is being administered at no cost to the patient. People should bring their insurance card.

A parent or guardian must accompany anyone under the age of 18 to sign the consent waiver form on-site for any individual under the age of 18 to receive their vaccine.

Patients at BMH can make appointments online using the adolescent’s MyHealth patient portal at beloithealthsystem.org/myhealth. Or, you they call the dedicated vaccine phone line Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 608-364-5663 to make an appointment.