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The City Journals

Salt Lake City School District encourages younger students to receive the Covid-19 vaccine

Dec 16, 2021 11:11AM ● By Lizzie Walie

Children as young as 5 are now eligible to receive the vaccine in Salt Lake County pop-up clinics. (Photo courtesy Salt Lake City School District)

By Lizzie Walje | [email protected]

Salt Lake City School District is urging its youngest students to get vaccinated. This encouragement should come as no surprise to parents, as the district has fully supported the administration of the vaccine in one way or another since in-person schooling returned in 2021. Whether that support looks like partnering with medical providers across the county, or helping students get vaccinated at back-to-school events, their stance has been overwhelmingly pro-vaccine. 

In the wake of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Covid-19 vaccine for children as young as 5, the district continues to advocate for its youngest pupils to get the jab. However, according to the district’s social media spokesperson, there are still no hard and fast requirements for students to get vaccinated. Despite the FDA’s approval, and the endorsement of the vaccine by reputable scientists and institutions, many parents are still reluctant to get their children vaccinated. 

A Nibley Park Middle School parent who wished to remain anonymous explained that the vaccine is a direct infringement on their family’s civil liberties. “As a public institution, one that we pay taxes to, there shouldn’t be a mandate. Schools should not hold the trump card over the wishes of us…the parents. We won’t be forced into anything.”

These concerns were wildly echoed on social media when the district announced via Facebook that they would be continuing their community vaccine outreach in the wake of the new age approval guidelines. The feedback was mixed, and the main points of disdain remain largely unchanged for those not in support of the vaccine.

The district doubled down on their message, and responded to the concerns by saying, “To date we have yet to make the vaccination mandatory. We view it as a personal decision for parents and students.” However, they did explain that they would be continuing to pair with the county to give students, families, and the community at large, the opportunity to get vaccinated for free in various pop-up clinics across the city.

For various reasons, it makes sense for the district to support the vaccinations. Vaccinations have been proven effective for mitigating the symptoms of Covid-19 and keeping both adults and children safe. Vaccinations may also help alleviate the need for such strict cleaning protocol. 

Paul Shulte is Salt Lake City School District’s Executive Director of Auxiliary Services. He has worked tirelessly to implement the most cutting-edge methodology to ensure the safety of students in schools across the district. However, he also explained that these meticulous cleaning protocols are a massive financial burden on the district.

“We are doing the best we can,” he said. “Even at the sacrifice of the district’s budget. We are overextended and a lot of that has to do with using cutting-edge solutions. Any time I get a call from manufacturers across the country asking what cleaning agents we’re using; they tend to relinquish trying to sell their product when they find out what we’re using.”

Shulte is referring to hypochlorous acid, a safe and effective cleaning agent that all schools across the district have implemented into their routine. 

“On top of the hypochlorous acid mixture we’re spending a lot of time making the rounds at our schools. Really, just cleaning all the time multiple times a day. Restrooms are cleaned four times per day, sanitizers and masks are stationed across the buildings. Look, we’re stretched thin but we’re making it work.”

Nevertheless, at a time where student enrollment in the district is at a record low, and taxpayer dollars are being shuffled into rigorous cleaning protocol, the vaccine is yet another free buffer that helps protect students. 

For some families, vaccines have always been a difficult sell. Especially those with young children as Covid-19 has historically proven more fatal in relation to adults. However, this attitude might be costing children undue sickness. During November 2021 several United States media outlets, including The Los Angeles Times, reported that recent Covid surges in the United Kingdom are attributed to unvaccinated adolescents contracting and spreading the Delta variant of the virus. The same cycle could easily repeat in the United States.

As for the Federal Drug Administration’s standpoint? On Oct. 29, they approved the authorization of the vaccine for children between the ages of 5 through 11, stating on their website: “The authorization was based on the FDA’s thorough and transparent evaluation of the data that included input from independent advisory committee experts who overwhelmingly voted in favor of making the vaccine available to children in this age group.”

The district will continue to pair with Salt Lake County health officials to provide pop-up vaccination clinics to those in the community. Anyone ages 5 and up are eligible to receive vaccinations at these clinics whether they are students, parents, or members of the community with no direct ties to the school system. Vaccinations are for everyone, and they are always free. 

As for the school board’s position on vaccines, President Melissa Ford merely wants to continue putting out accurate information that can help parents make informed decisions.

“We have not and will not make these vaccines mandatory. What we will do is provide safe opportunities for the vaccine to be administered. Personal beliefs aside, our goal has been to keep the children protected and operate in their best interests,” Ford said. 

For more information including pop-up clinic schedules, Covid-19 testing sites, reputable information about the vaccine and more, visit: www.slcschools.org/resources/covid-19-and-schools/high-school-vaccination-clinics#fs-panel-67689