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Plans underway to bring COVID-19 shots directly to students in school

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Posted at 10:54 PM, Sep 27, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - Eight-year-old Johanna Fox might not like getting shots, but she doesn’t need much convincing from her mom.

“I hate shots,” Johanna Fox said.

Her mom, Mary Fox, replied, “It’s uncomfortable, right? What do you get after you get a shot? What am I going to take you to get?"

“A Slurpee,” the little girl said excitedly.

“That's right,” laughed Mary.

Soon, Johanna and her classmates could be offered the COVID-19 shot during school after the FDA approves the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 to 11 years old, which could happen by Halloween.

“I think having them on school property is a really great idea,” said Mary. “When we send our kids to school, we want them to be protected and this is why we have things like fire drills and active shooter drills, and I think adding something like a vaccine clinic is just part of that safety.”

Details are still being worked out, but Monday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said they hope to bring the shots on school grounds wherever possible to keep kids safe.

“Planning is underway,” Northam said. “When the time comes, we'll be ready because we want to make sure that this is as easy on parents and children as possible.”

The governor stopped short of saying he’d make the vaccine mandatory for students.

“Right now, kids are required to receive several vaccines before they can start school,” he said. “The easiest and most equitable way to deliver the COVID vaccine is at school, to have the health department come in and give the shots.”

Evida Hutcheson is in the eighth grade at Ghent School in Norfolk. She said she and most of her classmates are vaccinated. While she supports a vaccine clinic at school, she said she does not support mandates.

Related: Hampton Roads parents race to vaccinate their child before the start of school

“I think it's a good thing to get a shot, but if you don't want to get it, that's your personal choice,” said Hutcheson.

Both Norfolk and Portsmouth public schools have offered the vaccine to students and discussions are underway for kids younger than 12.

“We’ve provided clinics for our students (16 years and older) in the past and have already discussed implementing a similar model moving forward at the appropriate time,” said NPS Director of Communications and Community Engagement Michelle Washington.

Portsmouth Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Lauren Nolasco said the health department would be the lead agency for a vaccination clinic and the division would support the effort in any way.

“We have partnered with the Portsmouth Health Department since a vaccine was available to hold vaccination clinics for both our staff and students,” said Nolasco. “We will continue to work with them in any capacity necessary to help provide greater access to the vaccine for our families.”

Hampton City Schools is hosting an after-school vaccination clinic on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hampton High school. The clinic is for HCS students who are 12 years of age or older, their family members, and HCS employees.

“This clinic is the only clinic the school division has plans for at this time,” said Kellie Goral, a spokesperson for HCS. “We are not currently in a planning process for a clinic for ages 5-11.”

Mary Fox said she had to go to three different pharmacies just to get her 12-year-old daughter Annika vaccinated. She was unaware that some drug stores don’t offer the shot for certain age groups. The convenience of having the shots administered at school is one reason why she supports the move.

“I think it just brings that added accessibility to families who maybe can't go out after work or before work to get their kids vaccinated,” she said. “Bringing the vaccine to where kids are where families are, I think it's really important. I think the governor is spot on.”

Northam said out of the roughly 420,000 kids in school between the ages of 12 and 15, about 63% of them have gotten at least one shot.

Annika Fox got her vaccine the day after her 12th birthday in July.

"I'm hoping that we can all go back to normal,” said the James Blair Middle School student. "We'll probably be wearing masks for a while, but I want people to get vaccinated, so that we can go back to normal."

Click here for our full COVID vaccination guide.