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Will all school communities offer access to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted at 6:42 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 10:55:33-04

WALLED LAKE, Mich. (WXYZ) — On Monday the FDA expanded who can get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Before it was available to people age sixteen and older. Now it is available to everyone age twelve and older.

On Tuesday some schools are taking action in response.

“Walmart reached out to me today and we do know one local hospital reached out as well,” said Kenneth Gutman, Superintendent of the Walled Lake Consolidated School District.

Superintendent Gutman says the district is working to offer a vaccine clinic, ideally before the end of the school year for students The district already hosted vaccine clinics for staff.

Walled Lake Central Assistant Principal Nick Hamblin got his vaccination at one of the school’s clinics and looks forward to giving his soon-to-be 12-year-old daughter the opportunity.

“We undoubtedly will get her the vaccine and I hope a lot of other folks at least will consider it,” said Hamblin.

“The parents were really grateful,” said Maria Mitter of the Wayne-Westland Community Schools.

As the Supervisor for Family and Community Engagement she helped put together a vaccination clinic in the district just last week for students sixteen or older. Ninety students and community members were vaccinated at the event.

The school is now looking into hosting another such event for younger students whose parents give consent.

“We’re trying to encourage people to get vaccinated so we can return to whatever normal looks like as a school district,” said Mitter.

“We know there has been COVID-19 cases in children. They might not react to it as hard as older, but they can still transmit it. The vaccine can protect against that,” said Dr. Mouhanad Hammami, Wayne County’s Chief Health Strategist.

Dr. Hammami says the Wayne County Health Department is now offering to bring clinics to schools across the county, starting in South Redford, Van Buren, Northville, and Plymouth-Canton Schools in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday morning the Heath Department and Wayne RESA held a meeting for more than 40 school leaders interested in such events. Dr. Hammami says school vaccine clinics allow the health department to encourage vaccination with convenience.

“If you are challenged because of mobility or because of time, this is bringing it to where you are,” said Dr. Hammami.

“The goal is to make it most convenient for parents and their children,” said Professor Florence Dallo, the Director of the Oakland University Master of Public Health Program.

Prof. Dallo says schools will play an important role in helping us reach herd immunity.

Still, there is no uniform effort in schools statewide.

The state has offered health departments flexibility in their outreach. Health department leaders say this makes sense because all communities have different needs. Some however say expectations need to be clearly communicated and opportunities offered to more students.

Some districts are not planning clinics at all at this point in time. In Wayne and Washtenaw Counties health departments are offering clinics in schools. In Oakland and Macomb Counties schools are working with local pharmacies or hospitals to put on vaccine clinics.

Professor Dallo says the state should at least make recommendations for such clinics to make sure everyone is on the same page in the effort to reach herd immunity.

“I think the state as a whole needs to be invested in this, so the policies trickle down to every student in the state,” said Prof. Dallo.