By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The start of the school year is just a month away for millions of students and there are growing concerns about a large number of children and teenagers who still have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. Students at Martin Luther King High in Philadelphia are getting physicals and vaccinations in preparation for school starting in a month.

“Public health is important,” said Evan Smith, whose son was vaccinated. “We gotta get our young people vaccinated, and playing sports, it’s a good thing to do.”

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“This is how kids remain safe and this is very important to do,” Brian Lewis said.

The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. But most kids are not fully vaccinated, and a new study says many parents with children under the age of 5 remain hesitant — 43% said they will “definitely not” vaccinate their kids; 27% want to “wait and see.”

“These days it’s really difficult to get the information you would need to make such a decision,” Jefferson Bonar, parent of an unvaccinated child, said.

Among the other reasons for not vaccinating their children, 53% of parents polled felt the vaccine poses a greater risk than the virus. 81% are concerned about serious side effects and say there is not enough known about the vaccine’s long-term effects on children.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about vaccines,” Dr. Paul Offit, a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, said

He says there is now plenty of evidence proving the vaccines are safe and effective.

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While most children infected with COVID do not have serious complications, he says it is not worth taking a chance.

“Since the start of the pandemic, more than 1,000 children have died,” Offit said. “And although one could argue well, that’s only 0.1% of the 1 million people who have died, that’s still 1,000 children. Even if you look at the youngest children, children less than 5 years of age, so there has been about 200 deaths. There’s been thousands of hospitalizations, and there’s been millions of cases.”

Offit said that with new immune-evasive strains, the country could see a spike in infections with school starting in about a month. Now is the time for students to get their COVID shots because it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully protective. He says if vaccination rates don’t improve there could be another dangerous COVID surge in the fall

MLK High School is hosting a vaccination clinic.

Jahsir Lively was among dozens of students acting on that advice Thursday.

“It could possibly prevent you from getting COVID and all that other stuff,” Lively said.

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COVID cases have been increasing significantly in the Philadelphia region and hospitalizations are also increasing.

Stephanie Stahl