**FILE** Pop-up vaccine clinics have been set up throughout the District at public schools and recreation centers for school-age children ages 5-12. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Pop-up vaccine clinics have been set up throughout the District at public schools and recreation centers for school-age children ages 5-12. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

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In the weeks since the federal government approved COVID-19 vaccinations for younger children, pop-up clinics throughout the District have met families’ demands for what’s been described as an extra layer of protection.

Clinics on public and public charter school campuses, in particular, have proven especially convenient for parents like Cynthia Whitlow, who said she has long anticipated the opportunity to protect her two elementary-age children against COVID-19.

“It’s good to have the clinics accessible to our community with the information out there [to have] people look at the bigger picture of getting their children vaccinated. I’m looking forward to another layer of protection and some peace of mind,” said Whitlow,  a mother of three who attend Center City Public Charter School – Trinidad Campus in Northeast.

Amid conversations about vaccine mandates for school-age children, Whitlow has become a vocal supporter of such measures. She explained fighting not only apprehension about her unvaccinated children attending school but the urge to follow those vehemently against the COVID-19 shot.

“I’ll admit I was initially against getting vaccinated but as more people around me caught and were dying from the virus, we decided to get it,” Whitlow said.

Data from DC Health shows that as of November 15, 42,144 youth between the ages of 12 and 18 have taken at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Information about youth between the ages of five and 11 remains unavailable.

Earlier this month, Center City PCS – Trinidad Campus counted among several District charter schools to begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations on campus for students and other children between the ages of five and 11 years old.

Meanwhile, D.C. Public Schools hosted clinics at 30 schools across the District, including Bancroft Elementary in Northwest. These clinics, hosted in conjunction with DC Health, often serve community members during after-school hours, oftentimes with less than 300 doses available at a time. Children must either be accompanied by a parent or bring a signed consent form.

District schools utilized a similar arrangement during the beginning of the school year to vaccinate children 12 years and older. Families also had the option of visiting local clinics and pharmacies to acquire doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Young participants often received incentives including gift cards and Apple AirPods.

Since August, D.C. Health has recorded 1,679 COVID cases at District public, public charter and private schools. Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School in Southeast, DC International Public Charter School in Northwest and Center City Public Charter School report the highest recorded cases. Among the District’s public schools, Ballou STAY and Hart Middle School, both located in Southeast, have recorded the most COVID-19 cases since the school year began.

At Ingenuity Prep, school leadership has highlighted vaccination as the ideal means of keeping children in school, noting that vaccinated youth won’t need to quarantine during an outbreak. Since the beginning of the school year, positive COVID-19 tests and quarantine periods have repeatedly interrupted student learning.

That’s why, as soon as it wrapped up clinics for students 12 years and older, Ingenuity Prep became one of the first schools to distribute vaccinations to children between five and 11 years old, collaborating with DC Health and the Statesmen Academy for Boys.

Ingenuity Prep Founder/CEO Will Stoetzer said the school’s pop-up clinics have been well attended and of great benefit to parents, especially those who’ve harbored skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Families were uncomfortable so we educated and helped them. We have a doctor leading an information webinar with families and sharing a lot of information. This vaccination clinic is an extension of the work we’ve been trying to do to make sure our families have the information they need,” Stoetzer said.

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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