Vaxxed To The Max

Parker Hosts Vaccine Clinic After Students 5-11 Become Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine

The+Vaccine+Clinic+for+all+children+5-11+takes+place+in+Parkers+Big+Gym

Photo credit: Jake Boxerman

The Vaccine Clinic for all children 5-11 takes place in Parker’s Big Gym

On Thursday, November 11, the Main Gym was filled not with athletics equipment and sports teams but with chairs, doctors, and kids. November 11 was the first day of Parker’s vaccine clinic, where Lower and Intermediate School students could receive the pediatric dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

“I feel pretty good,” fifth grader Madeline Boxerman said after receiving her vaccine at the clinic. Now that she’s vaccinated, she’s excited to go out to dinner. 

On November 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11. Younger children will receive a third of the dose given to children and adults, in two shots given three weeks apart. The vial containing the pediatric doses will have orange caps and the vial with adult doses have purple caps to avoid confusion. 

The vaccine is 91% effective for children and common side effects include sore arms, fever, and achiness. The vaccine was recommended unanimously by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the decision is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and more organizations. “I’m thrilled and excited,” school nurse Anne Nelson said. “It’s nice to be able to vaccinate the little ones so that it doesn’t pass as easily to other people who might be affected more.”

According to Nelson, two-thirds of parents responded to a form saying they would vaccinate their children at Parker. The survey did not include those who would vaccinate elsewhere. Vaccine appointments can be scheduled through drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS as well as Lurie Children’s Hospital and other health care providers. “I’m excited,” fifth grader Cole Chambers said, prior to getting his vaccine. After getting the vaccine, he is looking forward to “going to more public places where you can be around more people.”

Parker held the vaccine clinic in the Main Gym, with appointments for 5-11 year olds in both the Parker community and 43rd Ward. The vaccine clinic was originally scheduled for November 10-14, with the clinic being open to just Parker students and non-Parker siblings and children of employees on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and the clinic being open to all children aged 5-18 in the 43rd Ward on Saturday and Sunday. Due to issues with Instavaxx, the vaccine provider who administered the vaccines at Parker, the Wednesday vaccine clinic day was cancelled and appointments were moved to the weekend. 

There is another clinic planned for December 1-5 with a clinic for Parker community members from Wednesday to Friday and a clinic for the 43rd Ward on Saturday and Sunday. The clinic is for those who went to the first vaccine clinic to receive a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. “I know a lot of kids got their shots because they would tell me ‘I got my shot!’ and I know a lot of people used the vaccine clinics,” Head of Lower School Kimeri Swanson-Beck said. 

Students who receive their second vaccine during the first week of December will be fully vaccinated before Winter Recess, since that will be two weeks after the second dose. 

Seventh Grade history teacher Anthony Shaker has an eight-year-old child and a six-year-old child. “I think them getting vaccinated is just another step for them to try to get back to normalcy, and it doesn’t mean everything’s back to normal, but it’s just another step for them to be able to have a more normal childhood,” Shaker said. “They want to travel — they have cousins in Colorado who they haven’t seen for a year and a half, and they haven’t had a sleepover at my parents house who live in the suburbs so they’ll be excited for that.”

Currently, all unvaccinated students must complete weekly COVID-19 saliva screenings. Prior to the Pfizer vaccine being authorized for children ages 5-11, all students in the sixth grade had to complete saliva screenings since not all students were eligible for the vaccine. Now, all fully vaccinated K-12 students do not have to complete saliva screenings. Students will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. JK students will have to complete screenings regardless of vaccination status since some students are below the age of 5. 

Vaccinated individuals who are exposed to the coronavirus do not have to quarantine. If they develop COVID-19 symptoms, they need to get a PCR test and isolate, but if they do not develop symptoms they only need a rapid antigen test or molecular test three to five days after exposure. 

Prior to the vaccine authorization for children 5-11, if a lower or intermediate school student tested positive for the coronavirus, the whole class would have to be tested every other day for a week, in order to stay in school. If there were multiple cases, the entire class would quarantine. Additionally, if an unvaccinated student was sent home, any unvaccinated siblings were also sent home. Since lower and intermediate students are now eligible for the vaccine, if they are vaccinated, they are not also sent home.

“I do have a couple of students who are really waiting to get their vaccine to actually come back to school, so that’s going to be great,” Swanson-Beck said. “And there’s a few kids in the community who have more sensitive immune systems, and I think they’re just so relieved that everybody else can be vaccinated because it protects them.” 

Currently, lower school students eat in their classroom silently and all students face the same direction. Students wear masks at all other times and wash hands frequently. For the most part, students are not working closely in small groups. “For most of their memory, like first grade and under, they have masked in public their whole lives,” Swanson-Beck said. “They’ve actually acclimated very well.”

Parker will continue to follow Illinois rules regarding COVID-19 restrictions in schools as well as decisions by the Medical Subcommittee. “Our rules for school are stricter than whatever the state rules are,” Nelson said. “We’re definitely more conservative than some other schools would be, but that has served us very well.”

In regards to following COVID-19 restrictions, Nelson believes that the Parker community is “doing really well.” “I’m very positive about our progress and I credit the parents and the kids all through the school for following the rules,” Nelson said. 

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA to “teach” cells to produce spike proteins in the immune system. This triggers an immune response which helps the immune system know how to protect against a COVID-19. Those who receive the vaccine are less likely to be hospitalized. “Part of the reason why we’ve cut down on childhood diseases and deaths is because we vaccinate for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and polio,” Nelson said. “We’ve almost completely eliminated those diseases.”

According to the White House coronavirus response coordinator, about 900,000 children aged 5-11 received the COVID-19 vaccine in the first week of the age group being eligible. Nelson believes that lower and intermediate school students want to get the vaccine. “They’re all real positive about it so it’s nice. I think they get that from their parents, and the parents are happy.”