RSD offers vaccine clinics for ages 5-11
November 29, 2021
Jumping for joy, but tentative about the prospect of getting a shot, twin brothers Evan and Mervin Owuor, fifth graders at Geggie Elementary School, made plans with their father to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“When I first learned the vaccine was available to my age I felt really excited,” Evan said. “Kind of worried, but really excited because when I got the vaccine, I felt like I would just be safe.”
Evan is not alone in that sentiment as hundreds of students ages 5 to 11 poured through the doors of Crestview Middle School on Saturday, Nov. 13, to get their vaccines.
Federal health officials and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric COVID-19 Vaccine for safe administration to children between the ages of 5 and 11 on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
It’s an important milestone that it’s available to younger kids now. Not only are these children more protected now, but it also means that more improvements are being made to help start getting back life to the way it was.
— Taylor Donatelli
“The vaccine doesn’t stop the coronavirus but when you get it, it does help to be safer,” Mervin said. “It doesn’t do as much damage as when you don’t have the vaccine.”
With the new release of the vaccine, clinics like the one at Crestview have begun opening up throughout the St. Louis area to help cater to families looking to get their children vaccinated.
The pediatric dose is one-third the strength of the dose given to adults, according to the CDC, and continuing to wear a mask is still recommended for those unvaccinated or between the ages of 2 and 4.
Lawson Donatelli, fifth grader, said she has anxiously been awaiting the vaccine for children her age and has talked to her parents about getting her shot as soon as possible.
“I feel good because we can get the vaccine like the rest of the world,” Lawson said. “I don’t want to have to wear masks everywhere.”
RSD’s current policy requires all students, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks while at school. Lawson said she’s hopeful that allowing vaccinations for kids will inspire enough people to get vaccinated that the district may look to reconsider this policy.
“I would feel great because we could do more stuff and not get yelled at when we have our mask down,” Lawson said. “It feels really uncomfortable and no one can really hear you.”
Lawson’s sister, Taylor Donatelli, senior, remembers when the vaccine opened up for her age group and said she wishes it could have been made available sooner.
We’ve had under 200 deaths of children in this country, and that is absolutely no comfort when one of those under 200 is your child, but overall it’s not a big percentage of kids. I personally am vaccinated and I encourage anyone who is eligible to do that. It’s the best way to put an end to this and allow you to continue to live your life in as close to normal fashion as you can.
— Amy Wehr
“Not just to me but to everyone else as well,” Taylor said. “I think that if it had been implemented into the world sooner, life would have started to go back to normal by now.”
Taylor said getting the vaccine has made her feel safer leaving her house and taking off her mask in some public spaces. She said her mother is active in the health community and continues to share positive data on the effects of the vaccine with her.
“It’s an important milestone that it’s available to younger kids now,” Taylor said. “Not only are these children more protected now, but it also means that more improvements are being made to help start getting back life to the way it was.”
Amy Wehr, supervisor of wellness and health services, said she is hopeful RSD will transition away from wearing masks as a result of the vaccine, though the district has a lot of information to consider and she is not sure there will be a change in the immediate future.
Wehr said the vaccine not being open to many younger students played a significant role in deciding whether masks would be required this school year.
“We have a Pre-K program in our district as well, and I’m sure in those buildings where the 3 to 4 year olds still won’t be vaccinated, they’ll probably be in masks longer,” Wehr said. “I think masks will forevermore be an option.”
Though she consults on district health decisions, Wehr does not make decisions on mask mandates in RSD. Instead, this decision is left up to the superintendent in discussion with health care professionals.
She said there is no magic number that will bring about change. The decisions will be judgement based and come about with the help of St. Louis public health officials.
Even though the mask mandate has remained in place, RSD has made changes from last school year with the option of modified quarantine, which does not force students to take time away from school and their extracurricular activities. Instead, it requires vigilant symptom monitoring.
“We’ve had under 200 deaths of children in this country, and that is absolutely no comfort when one of those under 200 is your child, but overall it’s not a big percentage of kids,” Wehr said. “I personally am vaccinated and I encourage anyone who is eligible to do that. It’s the best way to put an end to this and allow you to continue to live your life in as close to normal fashion as you can.”
Wehr said a large number of families in the district will take advantage of this opportunity to get their children vaccinated and she encourages them to do so.
“It’s the best way to keep your kids in school and not have to have them get quarantined,” Wehr said. “In my mind that’s the real benefit. They get to keep doing all their activities and coming to school if they’re vaccinated.”