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July 21 is last day to have Helena-area students fully vaccinated before school
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July 21 is last day to have Helena-area students fully vaccinated before school

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Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

A nurse holds up a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination.

July 21 is the last day for Helena-area students to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in time to be fully vaccinated before the first day of school, local public health officials said.

“Parents are quickly running out of time to ensure their kids are fully protected from COVID-19,” Lewis and Clark County Health Officer Drenda Niemann said in a press release. “The Pfizer vaccine requires five weeks to build full protection – three weeks between first and second doses, and two full weeks after the second dose.”

The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 26 for East Helena Public Schools and Aug. 30 for Helena Public Schools.

Of the three vaccines currently approved for use in the United States to combat COVID-19, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for individuals 12 and older. Vaccines are not yet available for children younger than 12, but trials on younger children are underway.

The Pfizer vaccine is a two-dose series and has been shown effective in preventing or lessening the effects of COVID-19, including the Delta variant. The Delta variant is a naturally occurring mutation of the virus that causes COVID-19, and data show it is more contagious and spreads more easily than the original COVID-19 virus.

According to Lewis and Clark Public Health, the Delta variant accounts for a growing proportion of new coronavirus cases across the U.S., and people infected with the Delta variant are more likely to need hospitalization than those infected with earlier strains of the virus.

For more information or to find a local vaccination site, visit the Lewis and Clark County COVID-19 Hub at Children younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

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