Group of local doctors encourages youth athletes to get vaccinated


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — With vaccination rates gradually going up in Western New York, a team of healthcare workers are now calling on young athletes to roll up their sleeves.

“The more people we get immunized in the community the better we’ll be and the less risk there will be of spreading the disease not only at school but also at sporting events,” said general physician Richard Charles.

Healthcare workers say student-athletes are a topic they have not addressed yet throughout the pandemic. They’ve been focusing on the community as a whole, but now they feel it’s time to target specific groups, and athletics is a start.

“I think that’s part of protecting yourself, your fellow students and friends and family,” Charles said. “We can’t let our guard down even though we’re getting back to Spring sports. It’s exciting to see how much is going on in the community but we do need to be savvy.”

The Western New York COVID Working Group, which consists of a team of healthcare workers, is asking youth athletes, their families and their coaches to do what they can to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19. The big thing is for athletes to get their vaccine if they meet the age requirement.

“We know that the more athletes that we can get vaccinated, the lower the likelihood they’re going to get big outbreaks and the less likely that these individual teams are going to be put on pause or not be able to practice or be able to play or have these kids miss time from school from sports,” said Jason Matuszak, who specializes in sports medicine and is the chief of sports medicine at Excelsior Orthopaedics.

There’s also wearing a mask when possible while competing.

Matuszak says there are always opportunities for athletes to improve the health and safety of the sport they’re playing.

Matuszak tells us, “We still see outbreaks associated with youth sports in this community. Every week there are teams put on pause because members of the team have contracted the virus. So can we intervene at this point and really try to make sure that we’re doing as much as we can for the health and safety of our athletes.”

Matuszak says locker rooms are a potential place for spread and the group is encouraging athletes to keep their face coverings on in those situations.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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