HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – It’s that time of year again for Hillsborough students to break open the books, but local health experts fear knowledge isn’t the only thing these kids will catch during another pandemic school year.

“As the children go back to school and young people go back to college, we got to increase the vaccination rates for covid-19 among young people,” said U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, Fla.-14.

Castor said vaccination rates for students of age are very low and it’s concerning as COVID cases continue to spike around the state.

“In the state of Florida at the end of July only 25 percent of young people, age 12-17 had fully been vaccinated for Covid-19,” said Castor.

In Hillsborough County, the percentage lies around 20% to 34%, according to the Florida Department of Health. This summer, the Hillsborough County School District hosted several clinics, hoping to get more shots in arms. District leaders told 8 On Your Side they encourage students and staff to take advantage of the vaccine, but also masks.

“We’ll continue to educate our parents and make sound decisions and being able to provide CDC recommendations as we strongly recommend masks not only for students but employees as well,” said Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis.

As for those students who are not quite old enough for the shot, Representative Castor has this advice.

“They all need to be masked up, so that we can tamp down on the transmission of a very transmissible delta variant especially,” said Castor.

Hillsborough County does have a mask mandate in place, but parents have the choice to opt out of it.

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