Schools try pep-rally tactics to get students vaccinated

A growing number of public schools are using mascots, food trucks and prize giveaways to encourage students to get vaccinated before summer vacation.

Posted: May 26, 2021 2:50 PM

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A growing number of public schools are using mascots, food trucks and prize giveaways to create a pep-rally atmosphere aimed at encouraging students to get vaccinated against the coronavirus before summer vacation.

Districts from California to Michigan are offering free prom tickets and deploying mobile vaccination teams to schools to inoculate students 12 and up so everyone can return to classrooms in the fall. They are also enlisting students who have gotten shots to press their friends to do the same.

Officials are concerned that once school lets out, it will be even tougher to get enough teens vaccinated in time to guarantee widespread immunity on campuses.

The massive effort has just gotten underway because it was only two weeks ago that federal regulators authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 to 15. Moderna said Tuesday that its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12, a step that could put it on track to become the second option for that age group in the U.S. Younger children are not yet eligible.

So far, about 14% of the nation's 15 million kids ages 12 to 15 have received their first shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among 7.5 million teens ages 16 and 17, that number goes up to 34%, and about 22% have had both shots, according to the latest figures released Monday. The doses are scheduled about three weeks apart.

There are many challenges.

Depending on the state and even county, minors may be required to have a parent present to get the shot. Some parents may not be able to get away from work to do that. Others are unsure about allowing their kids to get a vaccine that only was approved for emergency use.

Protests have popped up outside schools offering the vaccine, discouraging kids who may already be nervous.

Mission Bay High School in San Diego provides an example of the mixed reaction among students.

“I'm not getting it," said Tatum Merrill, 14, standing with friends outside a mobile vaccine clinic at the school. “It was developed too fast and is kind of sketchy. And I feel like the number of COVID cases is dying down so if everybody else has it, there may not be a need for me to have it."

Her friend Brandon Cheeks, 15, said he wants the vaccine, but his mother is unsure. In the meantime, another 15-year-old, Laura Pilger, said she feels safer being back in school knowing that she and everyone she knows is vaccinated.

“A woman showed up and was passing out flyers that said ‘your body, your choice' but the message was not very welcomed," Pilger said. “Why wouldn't you want to get the vaccine?"

While hundreds of colleges across the country are requiring students to have proof of vaccination to return to campus, it’s unlikely that K-12 public schools will do the same this fall. It’s unclear whether schools can legally require a vaccine approved under an emergency-use authorization to immediately address the pandemic.

Instead, public schools are trying to entice students to get the shots by making the experience festive while sending flyers home to families to address the vaccine's safety.

In suburban Detroit, students in the Southfield district who show proof of vaccination will get a free ticket to the senior prom worth $80. The incentive drew protesters who said awarding the vaccinated could lead to harassment of students who haven't gotten shots.

“We are not separating or segregating students who choose not to receive the vaccine or do receive the vaccine,” Southfield Superintendent Jennifer Green said. “We simply want to provide our students an opportunity to celebrate this milestone in their life.”

The idea won applause from Dr. Howard Taras, a University of California San Diego pediatrician who consults with districts about health safety. He is also the in-house physician for the San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest in California with about 120,000 students. It has been hosting vaccine clinics at schools in communities with low vaccination rates.

The district also took part in a public service announcement with local teens who say, “We'll be getting the vaccine, now it's your turn.”

“I think anything that is creating buzz helps," Taras said, explaining that vaccinating at schools has the added benefit of generating peer pressure.

The virus has spread more rapidly among teens than younger children. “But with a large portion immunized, there is much less chance of it spreading in the classrooms, on buses," Taras said.

And more students may want to return to classrooms as a result.

While most California public schools reopened in April, fewer than half of students resumed in-person learning, according to an analysis by the nonprofit EdSource.

Many continued with online learning, while some dropped out altogether or went to private schools. Public school enrollment dropped steeply in the nation’s most populous state, falling by more than 160,000 this school year, according to the California Department of Education.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in California with about 600,000 students, plans to have a mobile vaccination team visit every middle and high school campus at least once before the school year ends June 11. The events will feature food trucks and music.

Superintendent Austin Beutner recently appeared with Wilson High School's “Mighty Mule" mascot to encourage students to roll up their sleeves. He said the district is offering paid leave for district employees to get their children inoculated. Schools where more than 30% of students are vaccinated will each receive $5,000 for projects, and students can decide how the money is used.

The school-based clinics also help administer shots to hard-to-reach populations who feel more comfortable going to their neighborhood school instead of mass vaccination sites.

Maisha Cosby was motivated by a drive-thru clinic at the Washington School for Girls in Washington, D.C. She held her 12-year-old daughter Maya's hand as she got her shot. Then Cosby got hers.

“All my friends have gotten it and they’re fine, and I’m ready for her to go back to school,” Cosby said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 818652

Reported Deaths: 15378
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147091924
Mobile724971336
Madison52231697
Shelby37575349
Baldwin37224549
Tuscaloosa35073612
Montgomery34092739
Lee23519246
Calhoun22221482
Morgan20910378
Etowah19816498
Marshall18338303
Houston17360412
St. Clair16034339
Cullman15406293
Limestone15328199
Elmore15186286
Lauderdale14270295
Talladega13827281
DeKalb12637261
Walker11180370
Blount10179176
Autauga9967148
Jackson9860183
Coffee9205191
Dale8884185
Colbert8840201
Tallapoosa7079198
Escambia6766132
Covington6706183
Chilton6633161
Russell635259
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion4995126
Dallas4949200
Pike4791105
Clarke475484
Geneva4568127
Winston4507103
Lawrence4309117
Bibb424686
Barbour357576
Marengo337890
Monroe331463
Randolph329864
Butler325896
Pickens315682
Henry311966
Hale311188
Cherokee302360
Fayette292379
Washington251351
Cleburne247460
Crenshaw244875
Clay243068
Macon234163
Lamar223347
Conecuh185953
Coosa180040
Lowndes174764
Wilcox168739
Bullock151644
Perry138340
Sumter132938
Greene126644
Choctaw88227
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 62°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 62°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather