CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations to all eligible students.
On Tuesday, the district began the process of converting high school gyms into make-shift Pfizer clinics for any student over the age of 16 with parental consent. Ellen Nitz, director of nursing at CCSD, says each clinic will last a day before moving to another school.
“Principals have sent out a link from MUSC for parents to be able to sign up their kids. That way we have a list of students that we can work off of,” Nitz said, adding that if parents didn’t know about the link they still had the ability to work directly with the district to get their child vaccinated.
On Wednesday morning, it was R.B Stall High School’s turn to host a clinic.
Students were required to sign up in advance. While Nitz says they have the capability to do 1,200 shots a day, only around 60 students signed up.
“I knew that our demand would not be as great as it was for staff but for these families this is a very convenient manner of being able to come into the school and have your child vaccinated,” Nitz said. “It’s very similar to how we have done flu shots in the past. We wanted to bring the convenience factor and remove any of the barriers which would make some families not able to participate, such as transportation.”
The collaborative effort with the Medical University of South Carolina aims to build herd immunity in the classrooms ahead of the next school year. Allison Eckard is the division chief for infectious pediatric diseases at MUSC.
She says young people need to be the target of vaccination efforts right now.
“This really is our way out of the pandemic. This is our way to being able to loosen our guidelines at schools such as the mask mandate and the plexiglass that I know many people are very tired of seeing and using,” Eckard said. “Many of the teenagers and young adults are driving up our numbers, and the more people we can get vaccinated in that age group the better off we will be in the long run.”
It’s not just about COVID cases.
Eckard says they continue to see cases of multi inflammatory syndrome in children.
“We have seen record numbers of MISC. That is a very serious, life-threatening, post-infectious complication of COVID,” Eckard. “Those children are incredibly ill. They were perfectly healthy kids before they got covid. Many of them do not even know they got covid.”
For the school district, the vaccines will also help with their quarantine procedures. Nitz says if someone gets the virus, close contacts that have been fully vaccinated will not necessarily need to be quarantined. That means the entire varsity basketball team or jazz band won’t be taken out by a single case.
Despite a low number of participants, the district and MUSC say this is just the beginning and as more students get vaccinated others will follow suit. Nitz says the decision to require a COVID-19 vaccination for next year has not yet be made, but will be done at the state level.
“We will follow what DHEC tells us to do,” Nitz said.
Another clinic was held at North Charleston High School on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Wando High School will host a clinic. The School of the Arts, Academic Magnet and Daniel Jenkins will be on Friday. On Monday, students at Early College, Military Magnet and Burke will get a chance to get vaccinated.