Health department starting back to school vaccinations

·5 min read

Jun. 22—School seems like it has barely ended, but with classes set to resume around the first week of August, plans are already underway at the Daviess County Health Department to get kids vaccinated before they return to the classroom.

"It is hard to believe how fast this summer is going. It is moving too fast," said Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender. "On Tuesday, we were at Cannelburg, pretty much all day, doing a vaccination clinic. We had quite a few school kids in for vaccinations. They were mainly Amish getting their school shots. I think we did 45. Everybody is thinking about it trying to get it done."

Washington, Barr-Reeve, Washington Catholic and North Daviess are expected to start registration for school in the middle of next month. The health department will be reaching out at those events to try and make certain kids get vaccinated.

"We are going to try to visit all of the schools registration week and have someone from the health department on-site for the school registrations to answer questions, and we are hoping some of the schools will let us do vaccinations while we are there," said Sullender. "We are working with the schools on that."

Daviess County has a history of being one of the least vaccinated counties in Indiana. But Sullender says that is not really a problem with the school-age population.

"It is the younger ones 6 weeks to two years where we lag behind. We could still do better on our school age vaccinations," she said. "The school nurses here are really good. They send out letters to parents reminding them of the immunizations they need."

While every child has to be vaccinated, not every kid needs to be vaccinated this year. If they are going into kindergarten or first grade for the first time or if they are going into sixth grade or age 11, and then when they turn 16, they need full vaccines.

"We are doing some extra things this year," said Sullender. "We are doing a clinic for back-to-school vaccinations on July 30 from 10 until 2, a back-to-school shot-clinic-bash at the health department. You can make an appointment or walk-in. We will have vaccines for school kids and we will have prizes and giveaways. It will be K-12. Aug. 1, 2, and 3 we will be doing shots from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m."

Recently, the CDC approved COVID vaccines for children from age six months to four years old. This will be the first year since the pandemic began that the COVID vaccinations will be available to all children. Those shots are not required and will not be part of the regular vaccinations, but they will be available.

"We have COVID vaccine available and we just received the 6 months to 4 years," said Sullender. "That just arrived Tuesday. We have plenty of vaccine for children. It will not be part of the back-to-school shots, but parents may request it. It's Pfizer. It is a three-dose vaccine. They get their first dose then the second dose three weeks later, and the third dose eight weeks after that."

Sullender says that there has not been a very large demand in Daviess County for the COVID vaccine for smaller kids.

"We have had very few people ask for it," she said. "Probably around 20 people have asked for it. Once it is out, we may get more. Those asking usually have kids that are two and three and their older kids come in an get vaccinated and they ask about the younger children."

She says that it is no surprise there are few people seeking the COVID vaccine for kids. That's because people in Daviess County tend to ease into new things rather than jump at them.

"With our community, the big thing is time," said Sullender. "The longer a vaccine is around the more likely people are to accept it. People here don't just jump on board when something first comes out. I know they were like that with hepatitis and flu vaccines when they first came out. Now, they get those without question."

Even though COVID may have stopped making headlines, the disease has claimed the lives of more than one-million Americans. It is still around Daviess County with 10 to 15 cases reported each week.

"We have seen an increase in COVID cases. People think it is allergies and it turns out to be COVID," said Sullender. "It is really hard to say how many we have in the community because a lot of those home tests are not reported to us. We are not seeing a lot of hospitalizations or deaths so that is good."

Sullender says some people have expressed concerns that they or their children might be given the wrong shot. She points out the Health Department is taking steps to keep that from happening.

"We have a lot of safety measures here," said Sullender. "We have three main safety measures in place, so that if you are here to get a school shot you won't get a COVID shot, unless you want one. And it is the same in the other direction. If you want a COVID shot, that is what you will get and not something else. We are really geared up to get as many vaccines in people as we can, whether it is COVID or school shots."