This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.

Availability of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continues to expand. Local school divisions, hoping to see as many people and students as possible vaccinated, are preparing to hold clinics for 12- to 15-year-olds, while currently offering them to students ages 16, 17 and 18.

"The more people we have vaccinated the better," Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Michael Richards said, in response to Monday's announcement that the Food and Drug Administration had greenlighted Pfizer's two-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

Clinics are underway for HCPS students between ages 16 and 18, with one occurring on Tuesday, Richards said. By having them at schools, parents do not need to be present with students as long as they have a screening and consent form filled out. This makes it easier for students to get vaccinated when parents might have to work, Richards said.

Richards had a meeting with the Virginia Department of Health, which runs clinics at the schools, about whether students 12 to 15 will also be able to get vaccinated without a parent present if a consent form is filled out. The answer is yes.

With this information, Richards hopes to roll out the first vaccination clinics for students ages 12 to 15 by the end of the month.

Richards has not heard any concerns from parents at this time about middle school students getting the vaccine. Actually, it's been the opposite, he said.

"As soon as the news broke, I got calls from parents asking when, when can their student get vaccinated," Richards said.

Like Harrisonburg, Rockingham County Public Schools has been hosting vaccination clinics at its high schools once supplies became available for 16- to 18-year-olds, Superintendent Oskar Scheikl said.

They have been taking place at high schools, and on Tuesday, 35 students were vaccinated.

Scheikl said RCPS is going to focus on getting 16- to 18-year-olds their first and second dose, while sharing information with 12- to 15-year-olds and their families about where they can get the vaccine in the meantime.

Once the division gets through both doses for older kids, RCPS will focus on setting up clinics for 12- to 15-year-olds, Scheikl said.

In addition, at RCPS graduation ceremonies in June, the Virginia Department of Health will have a tent set up where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available to anyone 18 and older who wants it, Scheikl said.

Like Richards, Scheikl said the more people who are vaccinated the better, and anything that RCPS can do to facilitate that is an effort worth doing.

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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