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School vaccination clinics continue as plans for younger students set to begin

Posted at 5:55 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 23:00:38-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Students at Granger High School lined up Tuesday for their COVID-19 vaccination as a part of Granite School District's efforts to give access to the vaccine for students.

“We’re seeing a fairly good response form our families thus far,” said Ben Horsley, spokesperson for the Granite School District, adding about the spread of the virus on campuses, “the goal and the hope is we can eliminate it all together.”

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Different schools are seeing different levels of participation in the Granite School District, but across the county, the health department is seeing lower levels of vaccine sign ups among students than they thought.

“We’ve been vaccinating at the high school for about the last 3 weeks now,” said Dr. Audrey Stevenson of the Salt Lake County Health Department. "Our hope is these individuals have, in fact, had an opportunity to be vaccinated elsewhere, and we are just getting those individuals who haven’t had an opportunity.”

Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one being used for high schools because it is the only one of the FDA-approved vaccinations that is available for 16-18-year-olds.

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One of the big struggles for these students is specifically being able to book an appointment for Pfizer, and its about to be a problem for those kids ages 12-15.

The FDA is planning to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 early next week, according to federal officials, which also means the state is starting to have conversations about how to reach those kids as well.

“We actually have already had those initial conversations with the health department.” said Horsley.

But with slightly less uptake in schools so far, Dr. Stevenson says they are looking to keep school and community clinics going, but broaden their efforts to reach teens as they become eligible.

“It's going to be a matter of considering other options in addition to that,” she said. “Are there other vaccine access or delivery points that are going to make more sense for that age group?”

READ: Biden's next vaccine goal: 70% of American adults with at least one COVID-19 shot by July 4

So how soon will those vaccines for 12-15 year olds happen? Granite School District says they are eyeing the start of next school year.

“I actually think that, by and large, these vaccination clinics will be completed prior to the start of next school year,” said Horsley.

The district will be working over the summer to provide convenient community places to have vaccination clinics to continue working on access.

For the health departments and districts, they say access is to be the key factor to getting the state to the threshold of 70% fully vaccinated.

"We have to be concentrating on the entire community,” Dr. Stevenson said. “So as each new age group becomes eligible, we not only want to insure that they have access just as quickly as possible, but also that we're not forgetting that we still need to provide access for.”