U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona toured a vaccine clinic at Capitol Heights Elementary School which he said resembles signs of recovery “that our country needed.”
“We get to talk to elementary-age kids who just want to be back with their friends [and] just want to be back with their teachers,” he said Nov. 17 outside the school. “This vaccination provides an opportunity . . . for parents to breathe a little easier. That’s what I saw here today.”
The clinic represents one of 37 elementary schools and 15 high schools in Prince George’s County where children ages 5 to 11 can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Appointments for second doses at some of the high schools will last through Dec. 15 and at four elementary schools until Jan. 13.
Besides those clinics, the county’s Health Department also oversees one at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.
As of Thursday, Nov. 18, more than 4,000 Prince George’s children ages 5 to 11 received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only one currently available.
Before parents and guardians leave a clinic with their children, a second appointment will be scheduled for three weeks later.
One parent, Shannon Duckett-Barnes of Fort Washington, said her nine-year-old son, Dyson, represents the last person in her household to become vaccinated. Duckett-Barnes of Fort Washington allowed her son and 12-year-old daughter to decide on whether to receive a vaccine.
“As a parent, I’m just the advocate and want them to have their own voice and to be able to make decisions within reason,” she said. “Then I support whatever their decision is.”
Dyson, a fourth grader who will play soccer and participate in karate, said “I get sick a lot” and attends school virtually.
When asked if the vaccine will help him feel better, he said, “yes.”
Ava Wren, 10, a fifth-grader at Capitol Heights Elementary, said she felt a little pinch when the needle touched her arm. But she said having her mother beside her helped.
“It was good because if I was sad or if I was scared, I would have her near me,” Ava said.
Ava’s mother, Christina Wren, expressed jubilation that her daughter received a vaccine and at the school where she teaches fifth grade social studies and RELA (Reading, English and Language Arts).
“The fact that my principal was even willing to offer it to the school, I absolutely love it,” she said.
The Talented and School Gift [TAG] school in Capitol Heights represented the second trip Cardona made to Prince George’s County.
Cardona walked through Mary Harris “Mother” Jones Elementary in Adelphi on April 13 as part of a two-week national tour showcasing the reopening of school amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control authorized distribution of vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 on Nov. 3.
The Biden administration urged local school systems to host clinics and partner with health departments and health providers as a way to reach people in communities.
When asked if COVID-19 vaccines should be required in schools, Cardona admitted he felt better when his teenage children received them.
However, “I’ll leave the decisions about requirements to the local and state health officials. That’s where the decision should lie,” he said. “But we know across the country in places that worked hard to vaccinate students and the adults, we saw less disruption. We saw communities getting back to normal. We saw students engaging with one another playing outside and not having to worry as much. We know what works and we’ve just got to follow it.”