CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The effort to vaccine the younger population in Kanawha County rolled on Tuesday in schools.
Dr. Sherri Young, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) told MetroNews 919 students received their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at one of the eight public high schools in the county.
She was pleased with the turnout, saying it shows the community needs the vaccine and wants it.
“The more students who want it, the better. The more active we are in the schools, the better it is going to be,” Young told MetroNews.
The vaccination clinic comes on the heels of outbreaks in five public schools and two private schools in Kanawha County including St. Albans High School, Chamberlain Elementary School, John Adams Middle School, Riverside High School, St. Francis Elementary School, Hayes Middle School, and Cross Lanes Christian School.
An outbreak in a school is defined as two individuals in a classroom who have tested positive for the virus, if they are not family members.
Young said despite the 41 confirmed cases involving students as of Monday afternoon, the situation is under control in the schools.
Jacob Kalaskey, a junior at George Washington High School received a shot on Tuesday and said he has been impressed with his school’s effort in fighting COVID-19.
“Without the vaccine, it has gone very well. In general, I expected it to be worse, a lot more cases in the school. I think we have done a great job of wearing our masks, keeping good social distancing and keeping COVID rates down low,” Kalaskey said.
He continued by saying he was relieved to get the vaccine. He hopes the vaccination efforts in the county and state can lead to his football team playing a full season in the fall.
“I’m really happy just for myself being protected and knowing I won’t infect other people,” Kalaskey said.
“I guess I could say I was a little iffy when the vaccine was first rolled out. Now today (Tuesday), seeing how many people have gotten it, I am excited about getting it. I wasn’t very nervous or anything.”
Kalaskey was one of roughly 250 students at the South Hills high school who received the vaccine Tuesday. All students in the county will receive the necessary second dose of Pfizer in roughly three weeks.
Pfizer is the only vaccine available for those 16 and 17 years old. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are allowed for those 18 years of age and older. Young said she is confident in the health department’s plans inside the school systems with only one vaccine available.
Young said it’s critical at this juncture in fighting the virus to get as many people between the ages of 16 and 30 years old vaccinated because the data show that’s where the most spread is. She said as active cases have risen over the past couple of weeks, more elder populations have been receiving vaccinations.
Gov. Jim Justice opened up eligibility for a vaccine to all West Virginians 16 years of age and older on March 22.
“Who hasn’t been vaccinated yet? That’s our young adults, that’s our young kids 16 to 18. That tells us when we see the disease rate going up, that that is the next place to target for vaccinations because it has worked to stop spread in our older patients who have received the vaccine,” Young said.
Young said any students in the county that were unable to receive the vaccine Tuesday can still do so by scheduling an appointment at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department or contacting a local pharmacy.
Permission slips from a parent or guardian will have to be signed for a minor.
Young suggested everyone to be aware of surroundings and efforts in the coming weeks because the fight is not over yet.
“Be careful when you are traveling with your kids, be careful at work because we are seeing family spread,” Young said in a message to adults.
“Be careful going on any types of breaks of vacations. Think about the sports. Is this a sport that can be safely played and executed?”
KCHD was joined by the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, Kanawha County Schools, Charleston Area Medical Center, West Virginia Health Right and the Charleston Fire Department for clinics at the high schools. Additional clinics are planned for students at Charleston Catholic High School and the University of Charleston.
Young noted that anyone age 65 or older who has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine may call the KCHD clinic at 304-348-8080 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and get a same-day appointment.