A Dec. 22, 2021, presentation slide from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows the rapid increase in the number of positive coronavirus tests in Colorado with a telltale sign of the omicron variant. (Screenshot by John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at ckbe.at/newsletters

Gov. Jared Polis is urging parents to get their children vaccinated and schools to ramp up testing to reduce disruptions in January from the highly transmissible omicron variant, but he gave no indication he’ll deviate from allowing school districts to set their own COVID policies.

So far, nearly 29% of Colorado children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, along with more than 65% of children ages 12 to 17. It’s a rate that exceeds the national average and puts Colorado on track to meet its goal of vaccinating half of young children by the end of January.

However, after an initial surge in interest, the pace of pediatric vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks.

Starting in late December, Colorado’s state health department will launch a $1 million advertising campaign aimed at parents. Spots on radio, television, streaming services, and social media platforms will promote the vaccine’s safety and efficacy in children. The state also is texting vaccine info to parents of young children and convening parent groups to provide feedback on common questions and concerns, all with the aim of getting more shots in the arms of kids.

“We think that having a higher vaccination rate for kids age 5 and up is a key part of making sure our schools safely remain in session next semester as Colorado experiences what other parts of the world and the country are already experiencing with the spread of the omicron variant,” Polis said at a press conference Tuesday.

Polis also encouraged school districts to take advantage of the state’s rapid testing program.

“Implementing testing can be a very effective way to welcome students back without welcoming COVID back to your campus after the break,” Polis said. “We would love to work with districts to provide that capacity to test kids as they return to minimize any disruption to in-person education.”

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

Erica Meltzer, Chalkbeat

Bureau Chief — Chalkbeat Colorado Email: emeltzer@chalkbeat.org