'Incredible layer of protection': Nearly all eligible Westport youths have received COVID vaccine dose

Westport Superintendent Thomas Scarice at a school board meeting on Monday. Taken Oct. 5, 2020.

Westport Superintendent Thomas Scarice at a school board meeting on Monday. Taken Oct. 5, 2020.

DJ Simmons / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

WESTPORT — Almost all Westport children ages 12 to 17 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 80 percent are fully vaccinated against the illness, according to te state.

It’s still unclear what impact that will have on the kind of guidelines and restrictions students will face when they return to school Aug. 31, but the district’s superintendent of schools is hopeful this will lead to a better school year than the previous one.

As of Aug. 12, the state reports that 92.7 percent of Westport residents ages 12 to 17 have at least one vaccine dose and 83.8 are fully vaccinated. The town’s high vaccination rates of adolescents and teenagers against COVID-19 means there is “an incredible layer of protection against coronavirus and its variants” said Westport Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice.

This school year, he said, students who are exposed to someone who has tested positive don’t have to quarantine if they are asymptomatic. That will likely make for a smoother school year, Scarice said.

“One of the biggest challenges we had last year was so many kids were missing class and missing activities because they had to quarantine,” due to COVID exposure, he said. “The vaccine not only gets us in good place when comes to welfare and safety but also protects in allowing some level of normalcy in delivering services to kids.”

However, he said the school system will continue to comply with Gov. Ned Lamont’s mandate on masking in school buildings at least until they expire Sept. 30, and may impose other protections as well.

It’s hard to know exactly how much vaccination rates among Westport youths have changed from past weeks, as state previously didn’t have a category for 12- to 17-year-olds, only for 12- to 15-year-olds. As of Aug. 4, 81.49 percent of Westporters ages 12 to 15 had at least one dose of the vaccine and 74.17 percent of people in this age group were fully vaccinated.

Westport is doing well, particularly compared to some nearby towns. In Fairfield, 68.81 percent of those 12 to 17 had received at least one shot and 60.8 percent were fully vaccinated. In Norwalk, 71.67 percent of people in this age group had received at least one dose and 58.76 percent were fully vaccinated.

Scarice said he’s not sure why the town has high youth vaccination rates, but he chalks a lot of it up to education.

“I think we did a pretty good job of educating families about opportunities (to vaccinate),” he said. “I think this is a really well-informed community that believes this is the path to overcoming this virus.”