Student vaccines: Some area schools taking hands-off approach

So far, most area school districts are not publicly urging parents to get their young children the coronavirus vaccination, but county health officials are planning to use some school buildings to offer the injections.

Area clinics and hospitals are seeing large numbers of parents bringing in their children for vaccination, local medical officials report.

A record number of vaccination requests are forcing the abandonment of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s previous walk-in process and those going to the medical center’s Liberty Twp. location now have to schedule an appointment for the shot, said officials.

And though schools are largely the most impacted by the federal approval earlier this month of the vaccine for children 5- to 11-years old, some districts may be reluctant to actively campaign for kids’ vaccinations given the blow back from some members of the public against earlier masking requirements, said local health officials.

Some school boards locally — and nationally — saw some school parents speaking out and demonstrating against student mask requirements earlier this school year.

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“In my opinion,” said Butler County General Health District Spokeswoman Erin Smiley, “I think they (schools) are being cautious appropriately because of what they have gone through with the masks.”

Some of the anti-mask outcry has since dissipated since almost all districts have now shifted away from mandatory masking during the school day for older grades.

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In Ohio public schools, local systems have legal autonomy for such decisions often under the direction of their publicly elected, local school boards.

Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools said, “we want to leave decisions about vaccines up to parents.”

No persuasion messaging campaign for vaccines is planned, Gentry-Fletcher said.

“If we do have a vaccine clinic (non-school day), or one of our partners offers a clinic, we will share the information with parents as a resource, but the decision on whether they use it is entirely up to them.”

Smiley said health officials, who have been in regular communications with area schools since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, are assisting some local districts that are offering some of their school buildings as temporary clinic sites — on weekends — offering injections for children and all those of older ages.

Talawanda Schools was recently one of the first in the area to advertise an injection site at its high school on Nov. 20.

In its social media posting, school officials expressly stated: “Children aged 5-18 must have parent to register/provide permission, children must be accompanied by a parent, vaccines are NOT mandated by TSD (Talawanda School District).”

Other area schools currently scheduled to offer their buildings for injection sites include Ross, Monroe and Fairfield high schools, she said.

The regional interest among some parents to get their children vaccinated is initially high, said medical center officials.

Nurses administered 538 vaccines to children in the newly approved 5-to-11 age group at a clinic on Nov. 6 and reported it was the highest one-day total since the Pfizer vaccine was approved for children earlier this month.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is encouraging families to check its website often as they continue to add appointment slots.

Families are encouraged to check with their child’s pediatrician as most offices now have vaccines available. For information on vaccine appointments with Children’s click here.

(Journal-News’ news media partner WCPO-TV contributed to this story)

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