No student vaccination clinics planned, but Upshur County Schools encourages eligible teens, families to get vaccinated

BUCKHANNON – While no vaccine clinics specifically designed for Upshur County School students ages 16 and older have been scheduled thus far, Upshur County Schools officials are working to disseminate information about where those students can receive a COVID-19 vaccine should they wish to do so.

After Governor Jim Justice opened up vaccinations to teens and adults ages 16 and older, Upshur County Board of Education members at their last meeting asked Director of School Safety and Emergency Preparedness Dr. Jeffery Harvey to survey students ages 16 to 18 years old to see if there was interest among them to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

On Monday, Harvey told My Buckhannon that he updated and re-administered a survey which had previously gone out to Upshur County School employees asking if they would like to add any of their family members in the 16 to 18 age bracket to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Teens ages 16 and older may receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while people ages 18 and older have been authorized to receive the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

“We continue to work with community partners on vaccination efforts, which is what has worked for us since we began vaccinating our employees in early January,” Harvey said. “We do not have a date for a specific vaccine clinic for students.”

One issue is that the community partners have indicated it is necessary for parents to be present with children under the age of 18 when they receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

“We are working with Community Care of WV, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department to determine the most effective means of getting vaccines to students,” Harvey said. “When we sent the surveys to parents, we received 29 additional responses.”

Harvey said at the present time, students in the age 16 to 18 population can receive vaccines at the county clinics in the area sponsored by the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, CCWV, St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur, the Upshur County Commission and other community partners.

“We frequently share information about the county clinics at which persons aged 16 and older can receive COVID-19 vaccines,” Harvey said. “Our plans include disseminating that information in many formats – aside from social media – this week. We are working to finalize that content. Some of those would include fliers sent home to families to encourage not only those [ages] 16 to 18 in being vaccinated, but also vaccinations in general.”

He said many of the surveys they have administered during the 2020-2021 school year have indicated that many families lack reliable internet access, and he said they want to make sure they are assisting partners in getting the wider word out across as many channels as possible.

“As you can imagine, we encourage our families to get vaccinated, and Upshur County Schools will continue to support our families with information on how and where they can obtain vaccines,” Harvey said. “We are monitoring developments regarding potential future vaccination of persons aged 12 to 15 years old. If guidelines change for these younger populations, we will continue to engage with our community partner agencies to ensure as many Upshur Countians as possible receive their vaccine.”

During that BOE meeting, Buckhannon-Upshur High School Student Body President and Student Representative to the BOE Jake Bohman said he was scheduled to receive his COVID-19 vaccine.

Upshur County School Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said everyone is excited to have students and teachers back in the school buildings.

“We are looking forward to graduation and other end-of-the-year celebrations,” Stankus said. “It is our hope that our schools and the Upshur County community remain safe and healthy by being fully vaccinated and following safety guidelines.”

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