EASTON — With the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine now authorized for use among teens, Talbot County health officials and vaccine providers are working together to offer immunizations to students of eligible age in schools across the county.
County Health Officer Dr. Maria Maguire said in an interview that vaccinations for kids 16 years and older began in schools last week on Thursday and Friday, and coordination is currently underway to offer vaccinations to kids age 12 to 15.
The push to get children vaccinated locally comes in response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorizing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children age 12 to 15. The effort will contribute to the county’s ultimate goal of getting 80% of residents immunized and protected against the coronavirus.
About 90 students age 16 and 17 and their family members signed up to get vaccinated last week at Easton High School and Saint Michaels Middle High School, according to a spokesperson for Talbot County Public Schools. Maguire said about 30% of children in that age group locally have been vaccinated so far.
The school district said in an email that it would like for as many eligible students as possible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because it “will help protect TCPS students from contracting and/or spreading COVID-19.”
The total number of TCPS students who are vaccinated has not been officially tallied, as some students received their vaccinations outside of school. Though when it comes to schools staff, a spokesperson confirmed that among both full time and contracted employees 581 have been vaccinated.
Maguire called it “really important” for schools attendees to get vaccinated, especially those age 12 to 15 now that they are eligible to do so. There are about 1,600 students in that age group in the county, Maguire said.
“We’re finding more and more of the younger adults and kids are making up our (COVID-19) cases, so if we’re able to add some protection to that group, it’s going to really help us progress,” she said. “Getting those kids, even just some of them, vaccinated, is going to really help us out.”
TCPS said in response to questions about its liability for any adverse side effects children who get vaccinated in school might experience that the “safety and well being of our students is our highest priority.”
Students younger than 18 are required to get parental consent before getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot, as is standard practice with vaccines of any kind. Students 18 and up are also required to sign an authorization form, TCPS said.
The vaccines are being provided to schools by University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, which has Pfizer vaccine supply. County health department staff and affiliated trained volunteers will administer the shots to students.
Maguire said her department is seeing a good response among vaccine-eligible children, but they’re not nearly as eager to get vaccinated as the county’s elderly population. She said she’s hoping that bringing the vaccine to children in schools and eventually other venues where children spend time will increase interest.
“We want to make it as easy as possible,” Maguire said of getting children vaccinated, adding that offering the vaccine to students in schools is “very convenient because kids are already there.”
Talbot County remains among the most-vaccinated populations in Maryland by jurisdiction, with just under 56% residents having been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to county data.
About 16% of residents age 10 to 19 are vaccinated locally as of Tuesday, and the Maryland Department of Health is reporting 77,804 residents in that age group have been vaccinated statewide.
While Pfizer is currently the only vaccine authorized for use among children, Maguire said she’s anticipating Pfizer’s age range eligibility will expand by September when all students in the county return to classrooms, and that vaccines from other drug makers might also then be available to young people.