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Speights: New CDC guidance is a move in right direction

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 5:41 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The CDC now recommends the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15 year-olds.

Several teens in Region 8 have gotten the vaccine in the few days since the recommendation came out as both Jonesboro hospitals began vaccinating those in the age group Friday.

Dr. Shane Speights, Dean of NYITCOM at Arkansas State said the day was a special one for him. Before Speights took his son to go to school, he took him to St. Bernards to get vaccinated.

Parker, 13, rolled up the sleeve to get the first dose of the vaccine Friday morning.

“Part of me just wanted to stop wearing the mask,” Parker said. “Getting [the] first vaccine is one step closer to doing that.”

Dr. Speights said it’s a priority to get each of his children vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. He adds he’s encouraged by recent CDC studies that have come out, including the big takeaway of no serious side effects for any of the 2,000-plus kids in the trial.

Both Dr. Speights and his son say they’re excited the vaccine is available to those ages 12 and up.

“I would not have my family or my kids be vaccinated if I didn’t feel like it was safe,” Dr. Speights said. “It was a really good trial and they had a really good response rate... really reassuring data in terms of the antibody response which is exciting.”

Dr. Speights said he understands the hesitancy among parents to have their children get the vaccine, especially knowing fully vaccinated people can still get the virus.

He said the science, including an almost 100 percent effectiveness in preventing severe illness and hospitalization, made him feel more at ease.

This is as the CDC announced new guidelines for mask-wearing Thursday afternoon, saying fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask unless in crowded indoor settings.

Dr. Speights said he was shocked at the CDC’s update.

“I have to be honest with you, I have to be honest with the viewers, I’m scratching my head a little bit,” Dr. Speights said.

The CDC announced the updated guidelines as under 40 percent of Arkansans have received the first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Speights said usually when the CDC guidelines change, there’s data or research associated with the change, and that he’s still looking for what prompted the change.

While COVID cases nationwide are at their lowest rate since September and deaths are at the lowest since last April, just over 35 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

Regardless of the numbers, Speights says he’s thrilled with the new guidelines.

“Do I think it’s a move in the right direction? Absolutely,” Dr. Speights said. “I think everybody’s been waiting for this for a long time, I just like to feel better again about what we’re seeing because the big question [is] the variants, it really is.”

Dr. Speights said he wants to see data on vaccinated individuals and how it protects against the different variants, especially the Brazil variant, which has been detected in the state.

He also mentioned he expects to see COVID cases go up in the fall and winter. Between that and the variants, he encourages everyone to get the vaccine.

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