Mon's school district set to vaccinate students

Jim Bissett, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.
·4 min read

Apr. 13—MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County high school students will roll up their sleeves for the coronavirus vaccine starting next week, the district announced.

Clinics for students 16 and older will be April 21 at Morgantown High and April 22 at University High and Clay-Battelle.

To date, 280 MHS students have registered for the vaccine.

Inaugural shots will go in the arms of 256 of their counterparts at UHS.

At Clay-Battelle, 23 have signed up for their first dose.

It's a start, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said.

The district began surveying parents and other caregivers two weeks ago after the federal green light for inoculations of people 16 and older.

That population is particularly susceptible to the U.K. variant of the virus, a more infectious and potentially deadlier strain already spiking record cases in that demographic — across Michigan and Florida, especially.

In the meantime, the Monongalia County Health Department reported 32 cases of the U.K. variant in Mon last week, with an additional 164 positive diagnoses from the California strain, which has two active mutations.

Despite those creeping numbers, some people still have to ease into the idea of the shot, the superintendent said.

"We were hoping we'd see a better response, " Campbell said, "but it's going to take a little time."

Which has been the rule in the pandemic that thus far has claimed the lives of more than 2, 700 West Virginia residents, according to numbers culled from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The push to vaccinate people 16 and older, the superintendent said, will have to mirror what it took to convince people 65 and older to get the shot.

As the vaccine builds resistance to COVID-19, Campbell said, awareness and education does the same to break down emotional resistance — apprehension over side effects, and the like — to rolling up one's sleeve.

"Our numbers reflect what's out there nationally, " he said. "It's an ongoing effort."

Look for more informational material, from a variety of official sources, going out to more Mon County families in coming days, the superintendent added.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved in the U.S. for ages 16 and older, and the maker also says it's safe and effective for the 12-to 15-year-old population.

The West Virginia Department of Education is reporting outbreaks in 51 schools statewide, including 22 cases at St. Albans High in Kanawha County.

In Marion County, the department chronicled seven cases apiece at East Fairmont Middle School and East Fairmont High School.

That county, along with its north-central West Virginia neighbors of Monongalia and Harrison, is showing yellow on the County Alert Map maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Mon's school district went into Monday showing positive cases and quarantines from last week.

The positive diagnosis of an MHS student resulted in the quarantines of seven additional students and a staffer.

Two additional South Middle students who shared a bus ride also went into isolation for safety.

South Middle was also its own COVID destination, after the positive diagnosis of a student resulted in the quarantining of 12 classmates.

A third student, while enrolled at Eastwood Elementary, is doing distance-learning from home this term, so no quarantines were necessary at the school on the Mileground, Campbell said.

That's why getting vaccinated is vital, the superintendent said.

And even with both shots, health experts still want the newly inoculated to stick to the pandemic protocols of mask-wearing and keeping a social distance, no matter what.

However, once a person fully vaccinated — with the two-week waiting period required for full effectiveness to kick in — that person no longer has to quarantine if exposed to the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week.

No quarantines would change the current look of Monongalia County Schools, which, also last week, reported 174 isolating at home — students, mainly — for the above concern.

"I anticipate next fall looking really different from this fall, " Campbell said. "Tremendously different."

Aug. 19 is the first day of school in the county.

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