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Some area high schools hope to hold COVID-19 vaccine clinics for students age 16-18

As the state continues to make COVID-19 vaccinations easier to obtain for all eligible age groups statewide, local high schools are racing against the calendar to try to schedule clinics for two doses of the Pfizer vaccine for students age 16 and up before summer vacation.

Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for emergency use for people aged 16 and 17, and school officials throughout the region are hoping to schedule first- and second-dose clinics the required three weeks apart before the school year ends.

Local health districts, which do not administer Pfizer vaccines, are helping to coordinate clinics with local health centers that are approved to use the Pfizer vaccine.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday visited a multi-school mass vaccination clinic in East Hartford, conducted by Community Health Centers Inc. The state Department of Education is working with local health centers to roll out high school vaccination clinics, starting with the state’s Alliance District high schools.

But in southeastern Connecticut, Lyme-Old Lyme and Old Saybrook high school students will be first to roll up their sleeves for the Pfizer vaccine.

Lyme-Old Lyme Superintendent Ian Neviaser announced to families Monday that students aged 16 to 18 can go “just across the river” to the Old Saybrook Middle School for vaccine clinics on Tuesday and Thursday this week from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“Although this is not a requirement,” Neviaser wrote to families, “students and their families are highly encouraged to consider getting vaccinated.”

Ledge Light Health District Director Stephen Mansfield said the district is coordinating with Community Health Centers Inc. to schedule vaccine clinics at New London High School and Fitch High School in Groton, both state Alliance Districts. The clinics are not yet scheduled.

New London High School Assistant Principal Scott Morgan said the school issued a survey to students on Friday to gauge interest and should have results this week. Students under age 18 will need parental permission, but parents do not have to be present for the vaccination, Morgan said.

“The state brought the idea to us through the Alliance District,” Morgan said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

The Norwich Public School District is a state Alliance District, but it does not have its own high school. Norwich Free Academy and Norwich Regional Technical High School do not qualify for the state’s Alliance District effort. But United Community and Family Services is awaiting imminent authorization to administer the Pfizer vaccine.

UCFS Executive Director Jennifer Granger said as soon as the approval is received, perhaps early this week, UCFS will gear up for vaccine clinics at the school-based health centers the agency operates at NFA, Norwich Tech and Montville High School. Each school is surveying students and will provide numbers to UCFS to order the proper number of vaccine doses.

“To be able to vaccinate high school students with two doses before the school year is up, that’s the goal,” Granger said. “We will order as soon as we can. Orders have to be placed by Wednesday of one week to get vaccines early the second week. Pfizer is three weeks between doses, so we have time.”

NFA spokesman Michael O’Farrell said about 100 students expressed interest in a vaccine clinic on campus. Some students have been vaccinated elsewhere.

“UCFS has been an excellent partner,” O’Farrell said. “Our plan is to hold a clinic in early May. The details aren't finalized yet as we wait for delivery information on the vaccines. That's going to drive the timing. Once we get that information, we'll be sharing it with our interested families along with other logistical details that will also be finalized at that time.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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