More student clinics planned as school vaccination window narrows

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About half of the 12-15 year old population in most cities and towns may not be fully vaccinated when schools reopen in late August or early fall, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.

Achieving full protection from the coronavirus requires five weeks from the day of the first dose. Students who receive their first dose on July 20 and their second dose in August will be fully protected on Aug. 24, the week many schools reopen. But the window is closing for full protection, with less than half of the 12-15 year olds in most towns reportedly getting at least their first dose. 

To be fully protected when city schools reopen on Sept. 1, a student would have to receive a first shot on July 28, and the second shot on Aug. 18, according to public health experts. 

State Department of Public Health data show that 1,347 Meriden 12-15 year olds had received one shot of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine as of July 14. That represents 43.65 percent of the 3,056 adolescents in this group citywide. About 1,073 or 34.7 percent were fully vaccinated. 

“Given the roughly 2.25% weekly increase in those 12-15 years old who are considered fully vaccinated (the highest out of any age group), if this trend continues, just about 50% of those 12-15 in Meriden will have gotten the COVID-19 vaccination but will not be fully vaccinated,” said Meriden Director of Health and Human Services Lea Crown. “That happens 2 weeks after the last shot.”

Mobile clinics, pharmacies

To boost its vaccination rates for those over age 12, college students and adults who haven’t been vaccinated, the city is using part of a vaccine equity grant from the state to open a multitude of COVID-19 pop-up vaccination clinics at local school lunch sites and other locations over the next two months. 

“We hope to see an increase in numbers weekly,” Crown said. 

Meriden was one of 27 municipalities and local health departments selected to share in more than $13 million in federal grant money.

In Wallingford, the vaccination rate for the cohort is higher than Meriden’s with 49.12 percent of the 2,113 students receiving one dose and 893 or 42.26 percent fully vaccinated. 

Southington reports 1,069 students or 46.12 percent had received first doses, and 911 or 39.3 percent were fully vaccinated. 

The Plainville-Southington Health District, which covers Southington, Plainville and Middlefield, recently had a clinic at Lyman Orchards that some families attended, said Director Shane Lockwood. He is also checking appointments at local pharmacies and was pleased to see appointments booked every hour, he said.

“We have been promoting that the vaccine is readily available at local pharmacies.” Lockwood said in an email. “We will work with the superintendents of school systems in the district as it gets closer to the school year so they can incorporate a message from the health district about the importance of the vaccine and where it is available in the superintendents’ back to school message.”

The town of Cheshire has one of the highest vaccination rates in the area among the age group, with 53.41 or 958 of 1,793 students receiving a first dose, and 46.63 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state data.

Hesitancy, uptick

The data track closely with the adult population and the gap in vaccination rates between urban and suburban populations. Cities and some rural areas have lagged behind suburban towns in the numbers of vaccinated residents, leading to state and municipal outreach programs targeted for underserved areas. 

State data also show vaccination rates for minority populations lagging behind the rate among whites. 

Among 12-15 year old Hispanics statewide, 38.03 percent of 52,023 students had received at least one dose as of July 14, and 28.58 were reported to be fully vaccinated.

However, those who identify as mixed races are not included in specific categories, but tracked separately, so the vaccination rates could be higher. 

But among those who identify as Black, 26.15 percent of those age 12-15, reported one dose of vaccine, and only 19.77 percent of 19,847 adolescents are reported to be fully vaccinated. 

By contrast,  52 percent of 98,540 white students statewide age 12-15 have received one dose, and 45.47 percent are fully vaccinated.  

But a recent uptick in COVID-19 infections in Connecticut and other regions of the U.S., and the easily transmissible delta strain, may spur parents to get their adolescents vaccinated.

Crown still encounters hesitancy from parents concerned about the vaccine and its side effects. Recognizing that the decision to vaccinate is very personal, Crown and her staff are providing answers, and referrals to the various vaccine clinics. 

“Our staff will be in attendance to answer questions,” Crown said. “Now, as vaccination has shifted from large mass vaccination sites to small, targeted opportunities, outreach is more important than ever to encourage vaccination.”

Non-profits, school officials

In addition to Crown’s staff, the department has also partnered with non-profit agencies Casa Boricua, New Opportunities, and the Salvation Army, to reach people in targeted census tract zones that have lagged other areas in vaccination rates.  

In addition to her optimism over the weekly increases in the numbers of 12-15 year olds getting vaccinated, Crown also expressed confidence in the school district’s “mitigation strategies in place —  throughout the entire pandemic — so that it never had to close a school,” she said.

 “We will be working with MPS on fall protocols once that guidance is received from the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the state Department of Education,” Crown stated in an e-mail.

The city is offering back to school pop-up vaccine clinics in partnership with the Community Health Center which began July 12 for anyone age 12 and up. Mobile vaccine vans will be at the citywide school lunch sites throughout the remainder of July and August, along with other events and locations

The next clinic is scheduled for this Tuesday at the Hubbard Park Playscape from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Meriden clinic schedule:

July 20 and 27 at Hubbard Park Playscape, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

July 26 at Maloney High School, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

July 28 at Israel Putnam Elementary School, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

July 22, 29 at Lincoln Middle School, 11 a.m. to  2 p.m.

July 24 at the  Meriden Green, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Aug. 3 at National Night Out, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  

Aug. 5 & 19 at Lincoln Middle School, 11  a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Aug. 7  at the Meriden Green, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Aug. 9 & 15 at Maloney High School, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Aug.11 & 18 at Israel Putnam Elementary School, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Aug. 13 & 20 at John Barry Elementary School, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Aug. 28 at Meriden Green, 8 a.m. to noon.

Aug. 28 at Hubbard Park, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

All minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.


Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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