NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) — Ahead of approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years of age, Governor Kathy Hochul stated she wants schools to help host alternative vaccine sites.
But districts say they are waiting word from their health departments on how this would work.
“It’s great that vaccinations are proceeding, but I would say they should proceed with caution and proceed with a lot of thoughtfulness to all the questions,” remarked Mark Laurrie, superintendent, Niagara Falls City School District.
Laurrie says “the devil is always in the details” when it comes to school-based vaccine clinics.
He said he is still waiting for more information from the Niagara County Health Department to see how the district would assist.
But he says his school nursing staff would not administer the vaccines to 5 to 11-year olds.
“I would insist that if our school is going to be used to be a vaccination clinic for children that the parent is on premisses — standing next to their child and there to authorize the administration of the shot,” Laurrie noted.
“Parents should be there to provide support emotionally and also consent,” stated Dr. Jo Silvaroli, medical director, Falls City School District.
The Niagara Falls Cit Schools medical director also agrees with the superintendent saying she realizes some parents are struggling with the decision to vaccinate their younger children.
“Our schools are a safe zone for children. They should feel comfortable coming to school and not be afraid to go to the school nurse because they're going to get a shot,” Dr. Silvaroli, responded. “I try really hard to let everybody know an important aspect is to go with your primary care provider and what their recommendation is."
Superintendent Laurrie says vaccination rates among 12 to 17 year olds in his district is only 20 to 25-percent.
The Niagara County Health commissioner was not available for an interview, but tells me they are “in discussions” with school superintendents.
But in Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says parents can expect a “three-prong partnership” with the health department teaming with schools and pediatricians.
“Have vaccine clinics in the northtowns, some of the schools in the city and some of the schools in the southern suburbs of Buffalo, and this is also a partnership with our community pediatricians,” noted Burstein.
Burstein said schools will be an important place to help distribute vaccines to younger children.
“We need their help to give us a safe place where families feel comfortable to come and get vaccinate and we also need their help with consenting ahead of time,” explained Burstein.
“How concerned are you about getting those vaccination rates higher with the younger age groups?” Buckley asked.
“That's where our partnership with the pediatricians come in pediatricians are very important — credible source of health information for the families that they work with and we know the pediatricians will give strong messages to their patients,” replied Dr. Burstein.
Dr. Burstein says there are now more than 52-percent of 12-to-15 year olds in Erie County who are fully vaccinated and 60-percent of those 16 to 17 have at least one dose.