As more high school students return to campus, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department hopes to partner with local schools as early as next week to encourage vaccination for those who are eligible.
County Department of Behavioral Wellness Chief Quality Care and Strategy Officer Suzanne Grimmesey explained that before the county can implement these clinics, the state must release guidelines for the newly eligible 12-plus age group.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA MARIA JOINT UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT
COMING BACK By May 18, Pioneer Valley High School students and others in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District will have the option to learn on campus part of the week in a hybrid model.
“California is waiting on the guidelines for dosage and parental consent,” Grimmesey said. “As soon as that is finalized and out … that’s when we’ll start setting exact plans for being out at school sites.”
Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said at a May 11 Board of Supervisors presentation that the CDC’s Independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will be voting to finalize that guidance on May 12.
“Meanwhile, in anticipation, we have been planning for school-based clinics, and we are ready to implement them as soon as next week,” she said. “We’re also in planning stages with our pharmacies and other health care providers who are providing the Pfizer vaccine, and in addition to that, our public health vaccination team will be going on to schools to provide those school-based clinics.”
While children aged 16 and older can get vaccinated with a parent’s written consent and do not need to be accompanied, the rules could look different for younger children.
“With regard to the younger, 12 and up, we are in communication with the state health department, [which] will come up with a uniform consent form and best practice of how to ensure that parents are on board with their kids getting vaccinated,” Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said at a May 7 press conference. “That will be coming as soon as next week.”
The expansion of vaccine eligibility and plans for school-based clinics comes at the right time, as additional North Santa Barbara County high school students are back on campus this week. Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Public Information Officer Kenny Klein said in an email that the district received a request from the Public Health Department to set up vaccine clinics at schools.
“It’s under discussion in the midst of coming back,” Klein wrote.
The district announced that in addition to the seniors already back on campus, ninth graders had the option to be on campus starting May 11 at Santa Maria, Pioneer Valley, Righetti and Delta high schools. Tenth and 11th graders can return starting May 18. The district’s board of education voted to bring back all students under the hybrid model last week.
Students still have the option to stay fully distanced until the end of the school year, with the last day of school being June 10.
“We will assess the effectiveness of the hybrid model by the end of the year, after we have actually had students on campus for several weeks,’’ Superintendent Antonio Garcia said in a district statement. “We will continue to monitor the health and safety of students and staff, as well as our students’ learning and achievement in the hybrid model.” Δ