ROCHELLE — Rochelle Elementary School District Superintendent Jason Harper discussed the COVID-19 vaccine recently being approved for 5-11-year-olds at the school board’s Tuesday meeting.
At the beginning of the month, the CDC recommended 5-11-year-olds receive the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech and the Illinois Department of Public Health adopted the recommendation. The vaccine had previously been approved for people 12 and older.
At its Tuesday meeting, Harper and the district resolved to not offer a clinic for 5-11-year-olds at one of its schools. It has offered free clinics in the past for 12-17-year-old students with the help of the Ogle County Health Department.
The superintendent stressed that now and in the past the vaccine has been 100 percent optional and up to the parents of students.
Harper said the OCHD can’t offer an on-site pediatric vaccine clinic “logistically and for a lot of reasons.” The district’s only other choice to conduct an on-site free clinic was a third party provider through the state that the district was “less than impressed” with after a booster clinic for staff of both districts last Friday. Harper was prepared to recommend trying a 5-11-year-old clinic until that experience.
“The clinics run by the OCHD were smooth and efficient last semester,” Harper said. “This was not like that. We had staff members waiting for 90 minutes or two hours. It was not good. I worked with the OCHD and Nurse Joelle Builta about other options.”
Harper said options for parents who choose to get their 5-11-year-olds vaccinated include the OCHD in Rochelle and Oregon, the DeKalb County Health Department, the Winnebago County Health Department, Meijer grocery store in Sycamore and area Walgreen’s not including Rochelle. Local pediatricians may offer the vaccine as well, Harper said.
The superintendent said the OCHD told him it is comfortable with the area’s options to meet demand for the 5-11 population.
“They said the other options meet more family-personalized needs and maybe the more generalized approach isn't the way to go for a pediatric vaccine,” Harper said. “We've had some inquiries about this and I want to build this information into parent communications.”
Harper told the News-Leader last week that the pediatric vaccine is “one more piece to the puzzle” of this semester’s return to all-day, in-person instruction and the district will support parents regardless of the decision they make.
The OCHD recently provided Harper with guidance regarding the holiday season and COVID-19. Last year, it made a blanket recommendation of an adaptive pause for county schools due to the possibility of increased spread of COVID-19 around the holidays. That won’t happen this year, he said.
“The OCHD said it has no intention to do a blanket recommendation for adaptive pauses over the holidays,” Harper said. “This is something we're very happy to hear. We want to maximize every day with our students this semester and this year. We understand that things can change from building to building or classroom to classroom. But, to know that our students are going to be with us through the winter holiday break is great news to us."