Local school districts weigh in on potential COVID vaccine expansion to elementary students


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As Pfizer sends their latest study to the FDA for full approval of children ages 5-11 receiving two doses, school districts across the Finger Lakes region contemplate the benefits this will have on their communities and staff.  

Joseph Wilson Academy, for example, not a single student is vaccinated because they don’t qualify. But expanding eligibility not only helps them but also avoids kids having to distance learn during quarantine.  

While students in the Rochester City School District are back to in-person learning full time, the threat of the Delta Variant lingering still puts a burden on how elementary level educators teach knowing none of their class can get vaccinated yet.  

“Children can’t work together as they have in the past,” Dr. Marie Rich who teaches Kindergarten at Joseph Wilson Academy said. “They can’t share materials and supplies. So much of what we do in elementary school is teaching children how to work together, play together, and get along.”  

Dr. Rice has spent 25 years teaching in Rochester and knows many K-5th grade teachers with pre-existing conditions or weakened immune systems. Chances to get a good portion of their classroom vaccinated would not only keep students healthy but add a crucial layer of protection for them.  

“If all our students were also vaccinated in addition to all of us, I think it would just be a huge relief for everybody,” Dr. Rice said. “Students, parents, teachers, and staff if we were all vaccinated then I think we could get back to a real normal.”  

In the study submitted to the FDA Pfizer tested two doses, a third of the size given to adults and teens in 2,268 Elementary School students who still developed immune systems strong enough to fight off Covid. Districts all over the Finger Lakes see those promising results as the key to keeping K-5th grade students in the classroom focused on learning.  

“We have had one student test positive in our elementary school which led to one class having to quarantine,” Dr. Shawn Van Scoy, the Superintendent for Gananda Central School District said. “If we had more students vaccinated that would mean more students do not have to be quarantined. So, we certainly look for vaccination to keep students in school.” 

“That is our biggest fear,” Dr. Rice said. “Having to go back to remote learning having to shift from what is amazing right now. In-person learning.”  

The FDA expects to reach a decision on approving the Pfizer doses for kids in the 5-11 age group before Halloween. The Gananda Superintendent, however, added it is going to take a sizable number of students at all levels to get their shots to stop the spread of the delta variant before masks and social distancing mandates can be lifted.  

The American Pediatrics Association has reported over 5 million children have caught Covid since the start of the pandemic with over 450 dying because of its symptoms. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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