Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Counties work with local school districts to administer COVID vaccines to young people

A pharmacist working for the Seattle Indian Health Board holds a syringe of COVID-19 vaccine March 15, 2021, at a SIHB clinic in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press
A pharmacist working for the Seattle Indian Health Board holds a syringe of COVID-19 vaccine March 15, 2021, at a SIHB clinic in Seattle.

Public health officials in King and Pierce counties are preparing to administer COVID vaccines to adolescents ages 12 to 15 after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for young people.

Those efforts include working closely with school districts to get that age group vaccinated.

In King County, nearly all districts have plans in place to begin offering vaccines at local middle and high schools, some as early as next week.

“We’ve reached out to all the school districts in the county and matched them up with vaccine providers to enable vaccine clinics on campus before school lets out for the summer,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, the county’s public health officer, during a press briefing Wednesday.

Duchin says parents and guardians can get information about those clinics directly from their school districts. In most cases, kids will need written permission from their parents or guardians to get the vaccine. But Duchin acknowledges there are some circumstances where permission isn’t possible.

“We understand that there are some youth who do not have that option,” he said Wednesday. “And so we do not want to systematically deny them the ability to be protected against this disease.”

Providers have special criteria they can follow in those situations, including for unsheltered youth. There is also an exemption for young people who are emancipated from their parents.

In other COVID news, the state Department of Health released COVID guidance for K-12 schools Thursday. It mandates full-time, in-person education for all interested students for the 2021-22 school year with some mitigation efforts. Those include a face-covering requirement and physical distancing, proper ventilation and infection control plans, an updated response plan in the event of COVID infections, and quarantine plans for students who can’t attend school because of illness.

As of now, primary schools are not requiring COVID vaccination to attend in-person classes. The three vaccines currently approved for emergency use in the U.S. are not formally approved by the FDA.

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.