JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dr. Ryan Cantville stays busy vaccinating kids against COVID-19 each week.
He estimates anywhere between 50 and 100 children ages 5 to 11 are getting their shots, outpacing and outperforming the state's average.
"The whole reason for vaccines is to prevent illness in children," he told First Coast News.
Right now, 9% of children ages 5 to 11 in Florida are vaccinated. That's well below the 57% vaccination rate for children and teens ages 12-19, even though their authorization came quicker.
Cantville says there is a reason - hesitancy among parents who believe their younger children don't need it.
"A simple conversation with their medical professional, their pediatrician and I think they can be encouraged and reassured the vaccine is effective. The vaccine is safe," he said.
The Duval County Health Department wants to share that message by urging parents to get their children vaccinated during winter break.
In a statement, the interim health director said, "Schools soon will be transitioning into winter break, and we would like to encourage parents to use this as an opportunity to get their children vaccinated."
Cantville says there is a strong possibility of more COVID-19 positive cases around Christmas but offers this suggestion for families who may be tired of hearing about it.
"If we don't want to continue to hear about the next variant, the immunization is the key. Because when everyone is getting immunized, there is not an opportunity for the variants to develop," he said.
Cantville would like to see an 80-90% vaccination rate among all children with the hope as parents learn more about the vaccine, their resistance to it becomes less about politics and more about health and safety.