Plans to use the Nevis School building as a site for COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday, May 25, in cooperation with CHI St. Joseph’s Health Community Health, were changed after a vocal group against the idea came to Monday night’s school board meeting.

Members in the group started out by saying that schools are for education, not vaccination. They stated that the vaccine is not fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and these vaccines are putting the lives of children at stake, with one group member characterizing the shots as “jabbing children with poison.”

They also stated that more than 99 percent of children who contract COVID do not become seriously ill. They said the decision to vaccinate children should be made by parents with their child’s doctor and that holding a shot clinic on school property is not appropriate.

Superintendent Gregg Parks said that it was not their idea to offer vaccinations at the school, but they cooperated with CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health, an agency that has been working with the school on its Safe School Plan during the pandemic, when asked to do so.

He said participation in the shot clinic was not being pushed by the school in any way and that the decision on whether or not to participate was left completely up to the parents.

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Parks also pointed out that other health agencies come into the school during the year, providing vision and hearing screenings as well as preventive dental care.

Parks concluded the discussion by saying vaccinations would not be given at the school.

“I will work with public health to find a different venue,” he said.

Parks said after the meeting that 18 students had been signed up for the vaccines at the school.

“We will share the information with those parents who signed up when a new location is identified and they will be responsible for getting their children to the site,” he said.

Community health’s response

Marlee Morrison, the director of CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health, said the idea to offer vaccines at schools came from the state.

“We’re the public health agency for Hubbard County, so we work under the Minnesota Department of Health’s guidance,” she said. “With the recent emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older from the FDA, and knowing that schools are sources of outbreaks, we want to offer the vaccine to those who are eligible. It’s a strategy that’s happening statewide.

“In our county, not everyone lives close to a vaccination center, so we are really trying hard to bring the vaccine where people are as a convenience. There’s no charge for the vaccine and schools receive no money for us coming on site. This way kids don’t have to miss school and parents don’t have to miss work to bring their child in.”

Morrison said CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health has offered childhood vaccines and flu vaccines at schools for many years. A vaccination clinic for students 12 and older was held at Laporte School last week.

“We had cooperation from the school to hold it in their building,” she said. “Obviously, all vaccines are given with parental consent and no one is under any obligation to receive the vaccine. It’s just a way to provide access to the vaccine to those who want it. We want to make it available at locations for people and provide accurate information so people can make informed decisions.

“We made it very clear in the letter that we wrote to parents that no one is required to get this vaccine. We also sent a fact sheet about the vaccine for the school to send out with the letter and have it available at each clinic.”

Morrison said “vaccine hesitancy” is something they hope to address moving forward. She said the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older was approved by the FDA under the emergency use authorization.

While COVID-19 has mostly impacted adults, Morrison said there are children who get severely ill and some children who have died. Children can also spread the disease to others.

“Vaccines are for public health,” she said. “The more people we have vaccinated within a school and community, the safer our community is.”

She encouraged anyone with questions about the decision to vaccinate their child to contact their health care provider or public health.

“Our goal is to provide accurate information and answer questions to help parents work through the decision,“ she said. For more information on vaccine locations or on hosting a clinic call CHI St. Joseph’s Health Community Health at 218-237-5464.