As Kansas City area schools return in-person, expect more vaccination promotion

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Middle school student Elise Robinson receives her first coronavirus vaccination on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — School starts in about a month for thousands of students across Kansas City, and districts have a lot of decisions to make before kids sit down in classrooms.

The number of COVID-19 cases, and hospitalizations, continues to creep up in both Kansas and Missouri. That has many people concerned about what happens when schools open for the new year.

“We really want our kids to get vaccinated, that is our number one. The American Academy of Pediatrics and all the other entities agree with that. Vaccination is our number one way to keep our kids healthy,” said Shelby Rebeck, director of Health Services for the Shawnee Mission School District.

While the request has been made, the majority of students between the ages of 12 and 18 in Johnson County have yet to take the shots. According to Rebeck, only about 20% to 30% of students in that age range in Johnson County are fully vaccinated.

The Johnson County Health Department said it is also concerned about the lagging vaccination rate among eligible students. The health department said that’s why it is asking school districts and other partners to promote the importance of vaccinations.

The message from those school districts is much different this year. Last year they were scrambling to adapt to changes, enforce mask mandates, and try to keep everyone as safe as possible. Patents and students can expect to hear more about vaccinations as districts work to educate families.

“The challenge this year is to get rid of the misinformation that’s out there. Get rid of the myths about masking and the myths about the vaccination, and really to have our school nurses focus in on how do we help our kids stay in school to learn, and then also stay in school to participate in their athletic events which we know are so important to them,” Rebeck said.

It’s a message student athletes will also likely hear from coaches and teammates.

“This is a team of young people that want to get back out on the field. So how can we do that, have a team strategy, no different than your coach sets up a strategy for winning a game. We want to win this game,” Dr. David Smith, member of the Kansas State High School Activities Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, said. “We’ve got to work together as a team and that’s that’s brutal honesty, really, and then working through with your healthcare professionals on the appropriate testing and treatment.”

School districts across the metro will be making decisions about masks and other COVID-19 protocols in the coming weeks and months. While parents may not agree with every decision, Rebeck asks that parents support the decision that is made.

“It may not be the right thing for you or your family, but recognizing the greater good, recognizing that we want to keep kids in school, that is all, everybody can agree on that,” Rebeck said. “So in order to do that, please comply with whatever your Board of Education decides. Be kind about it.”

“You know when your school nurse calls to say, hey, someone has tested positive or when the county health department calls to say, Hey, someone needs to quarantine, follow those guidelines,” Rebeck said. “Don’t make us the people who have to police that at school and really waste our time not educating kids by having to police all these issues.”

School districts and health leaders say the vaccines are safe and they are widely available.

If you want to get a vaccine, you can simply text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) to get information about the closest place to get a vaccination. The option is also available in Spanish by texting a zip code to VACUNA (822862).

In seconds, you’ll have several locations to get a vaccine, which vaccine is available, and information about making an appointment, or if you can simply walk-in for a shot.

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