BHN will provide the vaccines for the clinics. In addition to the Pfizer vaccine for the elementary students (the only one yet approved for children), BHN will also provide Moderna (1st, 2nd, and boosters), Pfizer (1st, 2nd, boosters), Johnson & Johnson (1st dose), and flu vaccines, allowing SPS to open the elementary school-based clinics up to family members as well as the students themselves.
"BHN is incredibly pleased to be partnering with the Springfield Public Schools to make vaccines accessible to students and families. Over the past year, BHN's Vaccine Equity Program has organized large-scale clinics as well as small-scale but high-touch mobile efforts in our local communities, vaccinating over 10,000 individuals. We are excited to now be able to serve students and help keep them in school, especially with the predicted post-holiday surge," said BHN President and CEO Steve Winn.
BHN has been a COVID-19 vaccine provider under the Massachusetts Covid-19 Vaccine Program (MCVP) system in Springfield since January 2021, serving populations hardest hit by COVID-19 to increase awareness, acceptance, and access to the vaccine. First and second COVID vaccine doses and boosters, as well as pediatric COVID vaccines (ages 5 - 11) are available at each BHN clinic.
Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick called the initiative to hold vaccination clinics in the district’s approximately 30 elementary schools and “herculean effort,” admitting that early indicators pointed to capacity issues, which would make the vaccination clinics at the elementary level impossible for the district to organize.
“This is a tremendous undertaking, and we absolutely could not pull this off without the generous support of BHN and I am very grateful to that organization for stepping up in this major way,” said Warwick.
Warwick said that while the district does not mandate vaccination, it promotes vaccination as the number one strategy for mitigating COVID-19. He added the district has partnered with Baystate Health to produce a pair of soon-to-be-released educational videos about COVID-19 vaccinations, with special emphasis on the vaccine for five- to 12-year-olds.
“We want to help our families understand why vaccines are so important and we hope to dispel any myths or alleviate any fears that they may have,” he said.
Clancy said she hopes all elementary families will take advantage of the convenience of school-based vaccination clinics. “Vaccinations are so important, and I hope our community realizes that and takes action,” she said, adding that every elementary school will reach out to their families directly to inform them of the vaccination clinics.
The vaccination clinics at elementary schools this winter differ significantly from the clinics provided at every middle and high school this past fall. At the elementary level, parents/guardians are required to hand-in a consent form and accompany their child for the vaccination shot. At the older grade levels, students needed only to report to the clinic with a consent form signed by their parent/guardian.
While the clinics welcome walk-ins, parents/guardians may register in advance. The videos and registration forms will both be available on the “Staying Safe in Schools” page on the SPS website (www.springfieldpublicschools.com) in the coming days.