New vaccine eligibility has parents divided

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - Some big changes underway for Indiana residents trying to get a vaccine. Starting tomorrow, March 31st, the vaccine eligibility is lowering to ages 16 and up.

Experts are saying that because citizens under the age of 18 make up a large portion of the community, we won’t be able to receive herd immunity until at least some kids and young adults get vaccinated.

But it’s a controversial topic. So we set out to hear what Michiana thinks.

“I'm all for the option of people having the opportunity to get the vaccine," Randy Ebright, one resident said

"Gosh, I guess I never really was asked that question before. Yeah, I guess it's a good idea. Yeah. Yeah," Eric Hernandez, another resident said.

"Oh, well, it has to be their decision, because it would weigh on me if I swayed them since I don't know. Yeah,” Janice Engle, a third resident said.

For Kristin Nestler, a parent of two, the choice is easy.

“I know that if my children were smaller because the testing is still being done, I would have greater concerns. Fortunately, I do have two daughters that are older 16 and 19, that they can do their own research," Nestler said. "It's been a tough year for a lot of teenagers. So we're doing it for not only her physical health but mental health as well, the comfort in knowing that we can travel, we can go into the building and be safe.”

A big dilemma in deciding whether or not kids should be getting vaccinated is just that some parents say they don’t know enough about the side effects.

"Everybody could have a different reaction. And just like we do with anything with any vaccines we currently have," she said. “It's worth it. If you look at being a responsible community member to keep ourselves safe or community safe, our children safe, or elderly. Everything has a risk.”

For Bryan Jones, it’s the risk factor that begs the question... is it really worth it?

“I have three children 19, 15, and 13," Jones said. “I think the advice to my child who is an adult would be, hey let's have a conversation about it and, you know, find out the facts first. Yeah, and educated about it.”

Researching the vaccine is a good step for his 19-year-old son but Jones says he’s still not comfortable allowing his 15-year-old to get the shot.

"Really going to pump the brakes on a 15-year-old, you know, at least until they're 18 or at least until more information comes out about it," he said. "It's definitely the unknown and, you know, I don't know if it's scary. It's just that because vaccines been around for a long time, most of these vaccines were developed with traditional technologies, some of them are new and others live scare tactics out there. This is a new one. I don't think anyone really knows what the virus does much, you know, long term, much less a vaccine”

As the vaccine rolls out to a majority of Americans, the next question has to be will schools require it come fall?

"There have always been vaccine issues. And I'd love to say, yes, it's required. But the other benefit of this past year is that we've really started doing really well with virtual learning. So we can say, it's required if you want to enter our buildings, but we're still living in a free country that if you choose, that's not what you want to do. You have the opportunity to do some sort of virtual learning school," Nestler said.

"If you have a hesitancy about going back to school, there's always a virtual option," Jones said.

"No, I think it's too early to require something like that," Engle said.

"Yeah, yeah," Hernandez said. "Because the kids, there's they're in closer relations with each other, and they can easily move the virus to one another without even knowing it until the adults can track it.”

“I think, to make it a requirement, I think it'd be a little tough," Ebright said.

St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox told me earlier this year, even though students will eventually be eligible to get the vaccine, he doesn't think masks, social distancing and other safety procedures will be thrown out the window. We are a long way from that.

As for requiring vaccinations to go to school, Mishawaka School Superintendent said it's a state choice and hopes there is at least a waiver for parents on the edge.

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