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Oklahoma City schools named ‘cornerstone’ of youth immunization

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With elementary school students now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, hundreds of people have scheduled immunization appointments at public schools in Oklahoma City.

Dozens of families have signed up within days for the school district’s first nine immunization clinics since eligibility opened this month for children ages 5 to 11, said Brad Herzer, deputy superintendent of education. human resources, safety and security.

After hosting vaccination sites over the summer vacation, Oklahoma City Schools and the Oklahoma City-County Department of Health have scheduled new vaccination clinics in the district starting Nov. 18, this time. by appointment only.

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Vaccination events in district schools will continue through December 21, with clinics in Hawthorne, Spencer and Cesar Chavez elementary schools; Belle Isle Enterprise and Classen School of Advanced Studies colleges; and John Marshall, Southeast and US Grant High Schools.

“We serve a large area,” Herzer said. “We just looked at the locations of the students that we had a pretty good turnout for before, and then we also tried to make it available at different places in the metro. ”

In Oklahoma County, where more than 5,000 children aged 5 to 11 have taken their first dose, school clinics have been the “cornerstone” of efforts to vaccinate young populations against COVID-19, said Jennifer Krawic, City-County Health Department. administrator for emergency preparedness.

Brad Herzer, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Oklahoma City Public School Safety and Security.

Other locations have been hit and miss, she said.

Federal authorities approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on November 2. The city-county health department began vaccinating this age group on November 15, Krawic said.

As of November 23, 6.3% of elementary-age children in the county had received their first vaccine against COVID-19.

“In a week, seeing 6% receive their first vaccine is actually pretty impressive,” Krawic said.

Statewide, more than 21,500 children aged 5 to 11 received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on November 20, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Clinics serving young children are organized differently from previous distribution sites, Krawic said. Unlike vaccination events in cafeterias and other large public spaces, health officials bring families into classrooms or group practice rooms to give them privacy while administering the vaccines.

Devyn Smith celebrates her with her daughter, Caroline Smith, 6, after her first vaccine on Nov. 11 at an immunization clinic for children aged 5 to 11 at the Meinders NeuroScience Institute at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City.

“For most of the kids it has been a big help to have their own separate space, not to be in front of everyone,” Krawic said.

The adolescent and adolescent vaccination rate could be a decent barometer for the younger population, said Blaine Bolding, chief of public health protection at city-county health. He said it’s possible that fewer younger children will receive a COVID-19 vaccine than their older peers.

Statewide, 31.7% of 12 to 17-year-olds are fully immunized, according to the state’s health department. This does not include those who received federal vaccine allocations, which are counted separately from state-level data.

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The partnership with the school district has been effective in reaching families, Bolding said.

“Schools already have their normal communication networks and processes with parents, so we can build on that,” Bolding said. “They’ve already established the lines of communication, and then the possibility of getting vaccinated goes through there.”

Espanta Steppe, IA, vaccinates Bennett Smith at a clinic Nov. 11 for children ages 5 to 11 at the Meinders NeuroScience Institute at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City school clinics are open to students, employees, and their immediate family members in the district, who can take their first, second or booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Although the clinics are aimed at children aged 5 to 11, 20 percent of those vaccinated from Nov. 15 to 19 during the city-county health department events were 12 and older, Krawic said.

Parents should view the COVID-19 vaccine the same as regular childhood vaccinations, said Staceee Hoye, clinical administrator with the city-county health department.

“Research shows that our COVID vaccine is safe to give to children, which is why we give it, like any other vaccine we would give – flu shots, chickenpox vaccines, whatever the case is,” he said. Hoye said. . “It is important to protect them without having to experience this disease. ”

Lydia Strong holds her daughter Dacey, 7, as she receives a small bandage after receiving Pfizer's pediatric vaccine on November 6 in the Yukon.

In Oklahoma County, 85.7% of people 12 and older have received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Statewide, more than 73% of residents 12 and older have at least one dose.

Following: As COVID-19 injections begin for young children, it’s a dose of relief for families in Oklahoma

Vaccinating younger populations will help contain COVID-19 in the wider community, especially when people congregate during the holiday season, Hoye said.

“If we can engage them now and they can see that this is beneficial and has a lasting impact not only on themselves but on their families, I think that’s the buy-in that we need,” said Hoye said. “This is what gets us out of the pandemic. ”

Upcoming vaccination clinics in Oklahoma City schools

All vaccination events at Oklahoma City public schools are by appointment only for students, staff, and their immediate families. Register at okcps.org/vaccineclinics.

Monday, November 29:

4-7 p.m. at Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, 5904 N Villa Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73112

Tuesday November 30:

3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Southeast High School, 5401 S Shields Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73129

Thursday December 9:

3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. at Spencer Elementary, 8900 NE 50th St, Spencer, OK 73084

3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. at Hawthorne Elementary, 2300 NW 15th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73107

Friday December 10:

3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 600 SE Grand Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73129

4-7 p.m. at Classen SAS Middle School, 1901 N Ellison Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73106

Monday, December 20:

4-7 p.m. at Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, 5904 N Villa Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73112

Tuesday December 21:

3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Southeast High School, 5401 S Shields Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73129

Journalist Nuria Martinez-Keel covers Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education throughout the state of Oklahoma. Do you have a story idea for Nuria? She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NuriaMKeel. Support Nuria’s work and that of fellow Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at Subscribe.oklahoman.com.