Empty classroom with sunlight coming in window

The COVID-19 vaccine is arriving at local high schools this week as county health officials report that the virus is spreading more in younger age groups.

"As the vaccine is put into the arms of the younger and younger individuals, the decline in the number of cases has now stabilized," said Paul Myers, administrator for Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Alachua County.

Two walk-up clinics were hosted by the DOH at local churches over the weekend for residents ages 16 and up.

Now, about a month before milestone events for schools such as prom and graduation, Myers said it's time to administer the vaccine to the student population.

"We really need to pivot our strategies here to try and get this vaccine into as many arms as possible," Myers said.

The DOH is currently averaging 1,600 vaccine administrations per day.

Starting at 9 a.m. on April 22, Buchholz and Gainesville high schools will open on campus clinics, with second dose vaccine clinics starting on May 13. More schools will follow soon.

The full schedule for Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) vaccine clinics is as follows:

  • Buchholz High School: Thursday, April 22 at 9 a.m. and Thursday, May 13 at 9 a.m.
  • Eastside High School: Friday, April 30 at 9 a.m. and Friday, May 21 at 9 a.m.
  • Gainesville High School: Thursday, April 22 at 9 a.m. and Thursday, May 13 at 9 a.m.
  • Hawthorne High School: Monday, April 26 at 9 a.m. and Monday, May 17 at 9 a.m.
  • Newberry High School: Monday, April 26 at 9 a.m. and Monday, May 17 at 9 a.m.
  • Loften High School: Monday, April 26 at 10:30 a.m. and Monday, May 17 at 10:30 a.m.
  • Santa Fe High School: Tuesday, April 27 at 9:30 a.m. and Tuesday, May 25 at 9:30 a.m.

According to the ACPS, students ages 16 and older are eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. It will be delivered in two doses about three weeks apart. The CDC has stated that vaccines are safe for teens.

Students who attend the digital academy can participate at their high school.

Students will be monitored after receiving the vaccine and are to remain on site for 15 minutes following the vaccination. The ACPS vaccine notification states that parents will not be present for the clinics and students under age 18 will need to have a consent form to receive the vaccine.

The ACPS requests that signed vaccine consent forms be submitted as soon as possible so that the DOH can organize the clinic with an idea of how many doses it will need.

Anyone with further questions can contact cowlespa@gm.sbac.edu or call (352) 955-6954.

Vaccine appointments are available for all individuals age 16 and older with the Alachua County Health Department.

As of Sunday, health officials have administered vaccines to 98,078 individuals in Alachua County. Among those, 65,795 people are fully vaccinated with both doses. The recent positivity rate in the county is 3.1 percent. Last week in Florida, the daily number of positive cases reported ranged from 1,641 to 9,048 per day.

The ACPS COVID-19 recovery dashboard reports that the school district has had 678 student and 307 staff cases of COVID-19.

Buchholz and Gainesville high schools have reported the highest amounts of combined student and staff cases with BHS at 132 and GHS at 95 as of April 18.

Mainstreet Daily News Reporter

Suzette Cook is a Mainstreet Daily News reporter who has been a community journalist for more than 30 years.

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