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Nation’s Big-City Public Schools Ramp Up Efforts to Vaccinate Students

  • When the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children ages 16 and older in December and then approved for use in 12-to-15-year-olds last month, urban school districts around the nation began taking a number of proactive measures to vaccinate students and contain the spread of the virus. 

    Last month, White House Covid Response Coordinator Jeff Zients held a Zoom call with urban school district superintendents and asked them to launch at least one school-based pop-up vaccine clinic in the month of June. Zients also told urban education leaders that the White House will match each district with a partner in the federal retail pharmacy program that can handle all logistical aspects.

    “All you have to do is coordinate with them and more importantly, drive awareness and turnout for these vaccine events,” Zients told urban school superintendents during the call. “We want adolescents and their families to get vaccinated now and we know this is a significant undertaking and we need your help to be successful.”

    Urban school districts are heeding the call, launching campaigns, mobile clinics and extensive outreach efforts to encourage students to get vaccinated. 

    Detroit Public Schools Community District developed the Teens for Vaccines campaign to provide vaccine education and accessibility opportunities to COVID-19 vaccines for eligible students 12 and older. Led by district student ambassadors, the students are sharing their successful vaccination stories and how being vaccinated has allowed them to re-engage in social and extra-curricular activities. 

    Texas’ El Paso Independent School District held “Vaccinate Before You Graduate” clinics in May at its high schools for students ages 12 and up, and on the first day more than 200 students received the first of two COVID-19 vaccines.

    Guilford County Schools in Greensboro, N.C., is using school buses to transport students (with parent permission) from high schools to the Greensboro Mass Vaccination site for their first and second vaccine doses. The district is also hosting weekday and weekend mobile clinics at several local schools, particularly in underserved neighborhoods and communities where vaccination rates have been lower. Athletic directors and coaches are also encouraging team visits to vaccination sites.

    The Cleveland Metropolitan School District partnered with the Cleveland Department of Public Health to host pop-up vaccine clinics in school buildings during the academic school year and will continue to conduct rolling clinics (offering both first and second doses) at district sites throughout the summer.

    The Hawaii State Department of Education partnered with all major medical providers across seven islands with schools to host middle and high school vaccine hubs for students 12 and over, as well as their families, on secondary school campuses. The district is also engaging alumni from the high school health academies to assist at the vaccine hubs. 

    The Los Angeles Unified School District launched a school-based vaccination program for children ages 12 and up in May. Built on the success of its COVID-19 testing program and existing school-based vaccination sites, the district will deploy mobile vaccination teams to all middle and high school campuses over the next two weeks.

    New York’s Rochester City School District has partnered with Walgreens and will be offering vaccine clinics at all school buildings.  The school system has developed a plan that includes calling all families, sending letters from principals, using social media and recording a message from the superintendent to encourage families to get their child vaccinated.