JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Some school districts across the state are scheduling vaccine clinics after approval from the CDC for kids ages 5-11 but what is the state’s education department recommending for school districts?
More than 116,000 pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine are headed to Missouri this week with more on the way. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is recommending parents talk to their child’s pediatrician for guidance.
“I think school districts are seeing it again as just one more option for our families out there, one more layer of protection for our children,” DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven said Thursday.
Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 20,000 Missourians ages 5 to 9 have tested positive for COVID. Kids ages 5 to 11 are now approved to roll up their sleeves for a pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
“Our schools have had to be particularly careful because this option wasn’t available for our students,” Vandeven said. “While adults could be vaccinated, children could not and so that’s why you saw extra caution I believe being made in the masking requirement for schools.
Vandeven said like masks, offering the vaccine is up to the district since Missouri is a local control state.
“We’re serving as a facilitator of information in the best ways that we can and the schools are arranging that on our own,” Vandeven said. “We are certainly helping to facilitate anyone that’s doing a clinic.”
She said more districts are working with their local health facilities, hospitals, or medical professionals in order to arrange the clinics.
Districts can also work in conjunction with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHHS) along with DESE for guidance and help in planning clinics.
DHSS estimates more than 533,000 Missourians are now eligible for the vaccine after the CDC recommended the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.
With kids between the ages of 12 to 17 already approved to get a vaccine, Vandeven it’s something most schools have already gone through.
“This isn’t really that new for our school districts because they’ve had 12 and older and so most of the high schools already adapted,” Vandeven said.
She said she’s not aware of any district talking about mandating the vaccine.
“There are state statutes that talk about which vaccines are required for students and again that is a pretty complexed list when you look at what our schools go through to make sure they are providing a safe environment for transmissible diseases in schools,” Vandeven said.
State law requires kids between kindergarten through 12th grade to get seven different vaccines. Those vaccines are:
- Hepatitis B (Hep B)
- Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTaP)
- Inactivated Poliovirus (IPV)
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (VAR)
- Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap)
- Meningococcal (MCV)
Vandeven said to mandate the COVID shot throughout the state like the others, it would require approval from lawmakers.
For now, she said the vaccine is one step closer to normalcy.
“We are hearing from schools and families across the state where the quarantine component continues to exist, obviously, the pandemic is still here,” Vandeven said.
School districts are allowed to use federal COVID relief money for vaccine clinics, Vandeven said. She plans to travel Friday to meet with school leaders to talk about their vaccine plan.
DESE’s current guidance is for teachers and students who aren’t vaccinated to wear a mask.