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Hartford Public Schools preparing for vaccine eligibility expansion

The CDC has given emergency use authorization for 5- to 11-year-old kids

HARTFORD, Conn. — An advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a series of meetings this week to discuss the approval of emergency use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 to 11 years old. Tuesday night, the CDC gave the emergency clearance.

The Food and Drug Administration, which claims the vaccine has proven to be more than 90% effective in protecting against the vaccine, gave its OK for shots among this age group last week.

Now that the emergency approval by the CDC has come, the superintendent at Hartford Public Schools said they are ready to get shots in little arms.

RELATED: CDC panel debates: Should all school kids get COVID vaccine?

Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez told FOX61 News on Tuesday, prior to when the emergency authorization was made, that the COVID-19 vaccine will help keep students in school – particularly because they won’t have to quarantine if they’re vaccinated and not showing symptoms of the virus.

"We had already quarantined over 1,500 students since the beginning of the year," she said.

The school district is expected to play a major role in the rollout of the vaccine for children older than 5 years old. Torres-Rodriguez said the district is in the planning stages of partnering with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to host a vaccination clinic in the near future.

"Many of our families are waiting for us. They feel that we are trusted partners. they know our school nurses. And so that’s a great opportunity for us," she said.

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At the same time, the district is still working on outreach for kids who are already approved for the vaccine. As it stands Tuesday, that's anyone 12 years old and older.

The district has held dozens of clinics already for that age group. They're hosting another during school hours on Nov. 19 at Weaver High School and Hartford Public High School.

"I've had students that I've talked to myself that have said, 'I want to get vaccinated, my parents don’t want to get vaccinated' or, 'my parents are ready, I don’t feel safe or, not there yet,'" Torres-Rodriguez said.

One Hartford parent told FOX61 News that he has no plans to vaccinate his children against the virus and he’s happy he has the choice to make that decision.

"Personally, I don’t like it. Because I think it’s a little too early to be giving kids vaccines," said Jermaine White.

Gov. Ned Lamont has said he does not plan on mandating vaccines in kids. Neither does the superintendent, who said she's following all the guidelines, which don't call for that right now.

Still, the district is working around the clock on outreach and education for their families and staff. They want to make sure the virus does not keep the kids from the classroom.

"We’re trying to avoid that as much as possible. And so making it accessible to our families is a priority for us," Torres-Rodriguez said.

RELATED: CT preparing for possible vaccine rollout for children 5 to 11 years old, state orders 140,000 Pfizer doses

If parents in the district have questions, they can reach out to their school nurse's office. There will also be an opportunity for a question and answer session for parents, again in partnership with CCMC, when and if the emergency use authorization comes through.

Local hospitals, pediatricians, health departments, and pharmacies are also planning on playing a major role in Connecticut's roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine to younger kids.

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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