Southeast Georgia Health System Recommends Vaccines and Face Masks For Eligible Students

August 5, 2021 – As the number of COVID-19 cases surge again, Southeast Georgia Health System is strongly urging parents to have their children, age 12 and older, vaccinated against the virus and to encourage their children to wear face masks when in the classroom.
“One of a parent’s greatest concerns, from the time they first learn they are pregnant, is their child’s health and well-being,” says Shontae R. Buffington, M.D., vice chief, Department of Pediatrics, Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus. “We do everything we can to protect our children, from car seats to swimming lessons. While most serious cases of COVID-19 have affected elderly adults, we’re now starting to see more and more children test positive. Although not yet approved for young children, the vaccine is a chance to protect our adolescents from this devastating virus. And as more of us get vaccinated, more people, including those who are not eligible for the vaccine, will be protected.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), more than four million children and adolescents in the United States have been infected with COVID-19, representing about 14% of all cases. While many children fare better than adults and only experience mild COVID-19 symptoms, thousands have been hospitalized and several hundred have lost their lives.

“I strongly recommend children 12 years and up receive the vaccine. My 12 year old was vaccinated in May when the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the ACIP for her age group,” says Julianne Temple, CPNP, Community Care Center, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The ACIP provides advice and guidance to the CDC regarding the use of vaccines and endorsed the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and its use in adolescents earlier this year.

“There’s many misconceptions out there about the vaccine and, understandably, parents may have concerns,” says Buffington. “Before making a decision, consider the source of information and reach out to your child’s pediatrician with any questions you may have.”

Temple adds, “I’ve heard, ‘It’s too new.’ Vaccines, and their components, are some of the most studied substances we put in, or on, our bodies. More than 150 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Data is always continually collected on vaccines to monitor for side effects and vaccine errors. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in those 12 years and older after completing clinical trials and intensive safety monitoring.”

Southeast Georgia Health System also supports the AAP’s guidance on masks for school children. The Georgia Chapter of AAP recommends all K-12th grade students, as well as teachers and staff, wear masks while at school.

“The spike in COVID-19 cases among children is cause for even more concern as we approach the beginning of the school year,” says Renali Agbayani-Bautista, M.D., pediatrician, Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Pediatrics in St. Marys. “The delta variant is the current prevalent strain and, according to the CDC, much more contagious than the original virus. Face masks are the most important tool available to help mitigate the transmission of the virus and protect children who are too young for a vaccine or those who are not vaccinated. For this reason, we support the CDC and AAP’s recommendation of universal mask-wearing in schools and applaud our school districts implementing facemask policies.”

Southeast Georgia Health System offers the free Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to everyone age 12 and older. To schedule an appointment on the Brunswick or Camden Campus, visit There is no cost for the vaccine or the appointment.

For more information about the AAP’s COVID-19 recommendations, visit or