Berkeley Unified School District prepares for children’s COVID-19 vaccine

Photo of COVID-19 vaccine
Lisa Ferdinando/Creative Commons
The Berkeley Unified School District is preparing to help students get vaccinated at elementary schools in the coming months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved of a small-dose Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/DOD under CC BY 2.0.

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Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a small-dose Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, the Berkeley Unified School District is preparing to help students and their families get vaccinated at elementary schools in the coming months.

Pending final approval by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pfizer will provide a COVID-19 vaccine that is one-third the dosage for adults. BUSD plans to partner with the city and Carbon Health to set up a series of vaccination clinics at elementary schools across Berkeley. Their goal is to ensure families have easy access to vaccines with a “focus on equity,” according to Trish McDermott, BUSD spokesperson.

“We expect vaccines to be available to our students 5 to 11 in the coming week and we are preparing for that,” McDermott said. “We’re looking at the upcoming winter holidays and we want to get all of our families access to clinics as fast as possible.”

With a final go-ahead expected later this week, BUSD hopes to host its first clinic Saturday, McDermott noted. The Berkeley Public Schools Fund is providing resources to staff clinics while preparing a fun, inviting atmosphere for children.

BUSD is also offering tips to help reduce student stress at vaccination sites, according to McDermott.

“We’re encouraging parents to be prepared to support their child during the visit,” McDermott said. “Pack a favorite toy, be honest with your children and talk about vaccination with your family and the importance of it.”

The School Board passed an all-student vaccine and testing policy Oct. 6, which mandated all students aged 12 and up must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 3, 2022.

Barring those with medical exemptions, students who are unvaccinated past this date will be required to undergo weekly testing, McDermott noted.

According to the policy, proof of vaccination will also be required for any students aged 12 or over who wish to attend any “indoor extracurricular BUSD event.”

“If the vaccine is authorized by the FDA for 5-11 year olds (including under Emergency Use Authorization), the District shall set a date four months from the date of FDA authorization by which all 5-11 year olds must either be fully vaccinated or participate in weekly testing,” the policy reads.

The policy details BUSD’s vaccination plan for the students in question.

When approval of the vaccine is finalized nationwide, BUSD will begin reaching out to the families of 5- to 11-year-olds, according to McDermott.

“We know that vaccinations along with masking and symptom testing can help us to keep our schools safe and healthy, which is our number one priority,” McDermott said.

Contact Jack Hughes at [email protected].