BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — The Mount Rogers Health District held its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic specifically for high school students at Virginia High School on Monday.
The push is on to get more COVID-19 vaccines in arms with eligibility in Virginia expanded to everyone 16 and older, including younger age groups.
As of Monday, 33.6 percent of people living in Southwest Virginia have received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 25 percent are now fully vaccinated.
Statewide, just under 40 percent of Virginians have received at least one dose, while 25 percent are fully vaccinated.
The Bristol Virginia School System wasted no time offering up vaccines to students 16 and older on Monday. Students took a pause from algebra, biology, and economics classes to visit the clinic set up in the school gym.
Many of the students said protecting vulnerable family members was the main reason for getting the shot.
“A big part of why I got it isn’t for myself, but to help other people. I don’t want anyone else getting it because of me,” said Virginia High junior Laethin Fowler.
Getting vaccinated wasn’t mandatory for students, but around 65 signed up for their shot with parent permission. The clinic comes after student COVID cases increased after spring break.
Bristol Virginia Public Schools Superintendent Keith Perrigan said while not every family may choose to have their student vaccinated, every shot makes a difference.
“As we approach the end of the school year, we have a lot of very important milestone moments coming up. And every student who had the vaccine today will guarantee themselves that they won’t have to be quarantined once graduation comes or those other events occur,” Perrigan said.
Some students who came to be vaccinated are still learning virtually full-time, such as Virginia High junior Zoe Slaughter. Her mother, Elicia, said the family made this decision due to underlying health reasons.
“We’ll see how everything goes and if the spread stops, and if it’s safer to come back…but we’re hoping that they can go back next year and finish out the senior year,” said Elicia.
For other students, like senior Nathan Worley, the pandemic has brought on academic challenges due to several classes moving online.
“This year is significantly harder than it as last year. Most of the seniors I’ve talked to are struggling,” said Worley.
As he looks toward graduation, Worley hopes others in the community will choose to be vaccinated as well.
“If it can help keep others safe and yourself, why not do it?” he said.
Mount Rogers Health District officials say they’re glad to bring the vaccine into high schools following increased virus transmission among younger people.
“We’ve got plans to go into some other school systems and offer similar clinics at other area high schools, we’re really excited about that, and hope we can expand it to every school that’s interested in hosting us,” said Beanne Forbes Hubbard, the district’s population health manager.
The clinic will return to Virginia High School in three weeks to give second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the students who received it Monday.