Orange County schools offering COVID-19 vaccine to younger students

District plans on more summer events

County pushing to vaccinate younger population

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County public schools partnered with the health department to offer free COVID-19 vaccines to students, their families, and the community on Saturday at three area middle schools.

Getting the vaccine was a family affair for 13-year-old Jessica Rivera-Strumpf and her parents. The seventh grade Roberto Clemente Middle School student was one of many getting the shot inside the gym.

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“I was pretty excited because I know that getting vaccines really helps,” Rivera-Strumpf said.

OCPS provided the shots at Roberto Clemente, Bridgewater, and Wolf Lake middle schools. The events were open to anyone, but district officials said they were targeting younger kids.

Pfizer received FDA emergency use authorization last week to start vaccinating children as young as 12.

Roberto Clemente Middle School Principal Betzabeth Reussow hopes students will take advantage and get vaccinated over the summer before the new school year.

“I hope it will help bring our families and our teachers a sense of relief so that we can go back to teaching our kids face to face and having our kids back and just a sense of normalcy and relief,” Reussow said.

Billy Hollowell brought his 17-year-old daughter Nicole to get the shot. He said she travels with her basketball team and he feels better knowing she will be protected.

“Knowing her and my wife will be traveling on airplanes to another state around other kids and a lot of the kids have the same mind frame to keep themselves safe and to keep everybody else safe around them, it helps out a lot,” Hollowell said.

The district is planning to offer more vaccination events this summer as the school board is set to review its mask policy next month.

OCPS spokesman Scot Howat said some parents are waiting for that outcome before deciding whether to send their kids back to school next year or sign them up for virtual school. The district’s hybrid learning model, LaunchEd@Home, will not be offered next year.

“I think some of those decisions may hinge on that. Many have already signed up and continued to move to face to face, so I think the more vaccinations that roll out the more confident they are,” Howat said.

Rivera-Strumpf said she will feel safer at school once she’s fully vaccinated.

“Especially since everyone is returning to school next year and I don’t think everyone will keep their mask on if I’m being honest, so it’s probably much more safer if everyone gets vaccinated,” she said.