As FDA approves vaccines for youth ages 12 and older, school districts get creative to promote vaccine to teens
This is the winning approach from East Hartford, Connecticut, at the end of April, when the district hosted a “student jump day” to help approximately 1,000 eligible students receive their first dose. of the coronavirus vaccine. Throughout the day, school buses commuted between students and an open-air clinic with staff members dressed as lime green goats – the mascot for the Hartford minor league baseball team – dancing on tunes served by a DJ on vibrating speakers.
“I hate gunshots,” East Hartford senior Ayanna Lavinier told 74, “but the music and everyone being there and it’s fast – it was fun.” Getting to drop out of school to get vaccinated “definitely” didn’t hurt, she added.
Nassau County Director Laura Curran hopes the strategy of using young ambassadors to answer questions from peers will inspire confidence in the COVID snapshots. Teens on Long Island are trained to answer all student questions, from vaccine side effects to concerns about whether inoculation may impact future fertility. (It’s not.)
“It’s one thing for … the adults in your life to tell you to [get vaccinated]”Curran told 74.” But when it’s your own peers, someone you love, someone who’s a friend, someone you trust, I think it has a certain resonance.
Nicolette Carrion, who graduated from high school in 2020 and now attends Georgetown University, works with the county as a youth ambassador. Sometimes she has to dispel the blatant misinformation teens have heard online or through word of mouth, she said, and sometimes she has to deal with the historic distrust of the medical establishment among her. black peers.
Faced with understandable concern, Carrion, who is herself African-American, reminds hesitant youth that “black doctors help[ed] in the vaccine formulation. “But above all, it gives them time to process.
“It’s very important to be empathetic and patient with people who have these concerns,” Carrion told 74.
Nassau Schools reward Youth Ambassadors with two full days of community service for their efforts. And students receiving the vaccine during the May 13-16 campaign are credited with six hours per injection, which counts toward annual school quotas that students must meet.
“It really is community service when you think about it,” said Curran, the leader of Nassau. “If we have good vaccination rates, it means businesses can operate normally, society can operate normally, we protect our grandparents, school can open normally.”
Anne Griffiths, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Minnesota who helped coordinate the Edina event, stressed that getting vaccines directly to students is critical.
“It was important to have it available in high school,” she told 74. “[It] removes some of the burden of transportation, free time for parents and arranging childcare. “
Many students in the suburbs of Minneapolis, she said, were delighted that the full vaccination could allow them to bypass the district’s quarantine policy. With both doses, exposure to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 would not mean a two-week hiatus from classes, sports, and other extracurricular activities, since the vaccinated student does not have symptoms of the virus.
“This [shot] could increase the likelihood that they can stay involved in their classes and activities, ”Griffiths explained.
After a study of 1983 adolescents found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective for young people aged 12 to 15 – with zero infections among the 1005 young people inoculated and 16 cases among the 978 recipients of the placebo – the FDA has extended clearance to this age group. Monday.
Anticipating the federal agency’s move, Edina already has an event on the books this Friday to offer injections to students aged 12 and older, Griffiths said, provided that on Wednesday the CDC also recommends the vaccine for use in children. 12 to 15 years old – as most observers would expect to be.
The district also has a follow-up vaccination clinic scheduled to administer second doses to high school students who received vaccines last week.
Benjamin Linas, associate professor of epidemiology at Boston University, hopes schools across the country follow Edina’s lead, becoming a community hub for vaccines and COVID-19 information.
He envisions schools stepping up efforts to help with immunizations, as they did more than half a century ago during the polio epidemic.
“We have offered the vaccine in schools to children, and parents across America have enthusiastically enrolled their children,” observes Linas. “There are… lessons to be learned from the polio experience.”
A survey indicates that currently, many parents may be reluctant to let their children receive coronavirus vaccines. Only 3 in 10 said they would get their children immunized immediately, while 26% said they would wait to see how the vaccine worked, The New York Times reported last week.
School policies, however, may have the power to influence parental preferences. Another 18 percent of parents said they would allow their children to receive vaccines if it was a school requirement.
However, the likelihood of school immunization warrants this fall remains low, says Dorit Reiss, a professor of law at UC Hastings and an expert on the legal intricacies of immunization policy. This is because such decisions are made at the state level, rather than on a school-by-school basis, and the process can be tricky.
Two key issues currently preclude state-level action, Reiss told 74. First, while coronavirus vaccines currently have emergency clearance status, the FDA has yet to issue the. full vaccine approval. Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a joint application to the federal agency on May 7 for full authorization, but the process will likely take weeks, if not months.
“I think a lot of states will wait for full FDA approval to go ahead,” Reiss said. “No state has ever added a vaccine that was not recommended and I don’t think they will.”
But even though approval was granted quickly, another snag remains: Students under the age of 12 will not be eligible for coronavirus vaccines until the start of 2022, according to the latest estimates. This means that politicians who hope to add COVID vaccines to compulsory school lists would have to repeat the process for younger students soon after.
“I don’t think a politician wants to do it twice,” the law professor said. “When they do, that will be when they can pass it for all of K-12 [system]. “
So, in the meantime, schools looking to tighten protections against COVID-19 next year may well be focusing on providing broad access to the footage, rather than forcing it.
For students like Lavinier of East Hartford, who is due to receive her second dose on May 17, getting the shot at her school event represented a key step towards a return to life as she once knew it.
“I just want life to get back to normal,” she says. “It was a really tough year.”
Once fully vaccinated, the high school student looks forward to spending time with friends, going out to dinner with her family and having what, fingers crossed, will be a more consistent first year in college this fall.
Thinking about life after the second dose, “it feels good,” Lavinier said. “A bright future.”
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