WILTON, Iowa–Since COVID-19 vaccines first arrived in Muscatine County in December 2020, vaccine providers have focused their efforts on getting them to adults, allowing older adults to have more interactions with the wider community and making in person work safer. Now as the vaccine rollout continues, attention has turned to getting vaccines to secondary school students, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announcing that children as young as 12 may receive the Pfizer vaccine and that it provides strong protection for them. On May 13, Wester Drug hosted their first student COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Wilton Junior-Senior High School, which provided first doses of the Pfizer vaccine to between 80 and 100 Wilton and Durant students.
Currently, Wester Drug receives regular shipments of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines though the Federal Pharmacy Partnership. As supplies of vaccines have gotten more plentiful, Wester Drug’s owners, Cory and Michelle Garvin, thought the time had come to start offering them to younger students. With that thought in mind, they contacted Wilton Community School District, where their own four sons attend, and asked about setting up a clinic for 16-18-year-old students, similar to flu shot clinics they run each fall. “They were on board right away and started contacting parents,” Cory Garvin said. “It’s been a great relationship between us and the school.” When the Pfizer vaccine received clearance for use in children 12 and up, they adapted the clinic to include this younger demographic too.
With assistance from Wilton’s nurse, Heather Hartley, Wester Drug vaccinated students in the Wilton Junior-Senior High School gym. Though some of the students who received their shots (with prior parental consent) started out hesitant, Hartley and the Garvins’ experience working with kids put them at ease and allowed the clinic to run quite smoothly. “I was scared at first, but it wasn’t that bad in the end–it was just a little poke,” shared Jazmin Day, a seventh grader at Wilton Junior Senior High School.
In order for students to receive the full benefits of vaccinations, they will require a second Pfizer vaccine. To ensure they receive it, Wester Drug scheduled appointments for all participants before they left and went back to class. “When the kids leave here, they already have an appointment for the second vaccine,” Garvin detailed. “We had some who had conflicts with the second vaccine, and we were able to accommodate them.”
The first clinic specifically for students in Muscatine County, Garvin felt pleased to start getting COVID-19 vaccines to younger people. “The sooner we can get approval to give them vaccines, the better,” he said. “It’ll give a much better handle on the pandemic.”
Hartley shared his enthusiasm. “It it has been such a relief to get it to some of them,” she observed. “I know a lot of people think they can rely on herd immunity, but we’re not going to see it for a long time, but this offers protection.”
Over the weekend, Wester Drug held an additional student vaccine clinic in West Liberty and plan to do one in Wapello in about a week’s time. So long as vaccine supplies remain steady, they play to continue to work with regional school districts to vaccinate more students before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.