Health Southern Indiana

Four months after giving out the first coronavirus vaccines, the Floyd County Health Department is turning its attention to local teenagers.

Dr. Tom Harris, Floyd County’s Health Officer, said the health department will administer Pfizer vaccine doses to students aged 16 and up at both New Albany-Floyd County high schools on Thursday.

“We’re really prepared to do as many people as possible,” Harris said. “We go into school, give the shot, they wait 15 minutes and go back to class. Pretty painless.”

Three teams of health department employees and volunteers will be on site at Floyd Central and New Albany high schools during that school day. The event is not open to the public.

As of Friday, at least 200 students had signed up. There are more than 1,700 juniors and seniors at the two schools, and Harris said the program can vaccinate up to 100 per hour.

New Albany-Floyd County Schools superintendent Brad Snyder said he’s happy with the timing of the program. Next month, students and staff will celebrate several events where people will likely congregate:  prom, graduation and senior night.

“It just struck me as a win [for everybody],” Snyder said. “It’s good for the student, it’s good for the parent, it’s good for the school, it’s good for the community, it’s good for the country.”

Pfizer produces the only vaccine currently approved for ages 16 and 17, while others are limited to those 18 and older. Harris said it’s possible that kids aged 12 to 15 could become eligible in the coming weeks.

He sees this week’s event as a sort of trial program that will help the health department improve the process for future school vaccination days.

“Some schools may want a vaccination before kids come back in the fall,” Harris said. “So this will give us some more experience on how to interact with the schools and how to run these clinics for any potential future wave of vaccinations this summer.”

Harris said Community Montessori, an independent school in Floyd County, is also interested in hosting a vaccination day for students, but details aren’t set.

Dr. Eric Yazel, Clark County’s health officer, praised local schools for doing their best to keep students safe over the past several months. But he said the best protection moving forward will be vaccinating every eligible person, including kids.

That’s why the Clark County Health Department is crafting a school vaccination program similar to the one Floyd County is executing this week.

“The more children we get vaccinated before we go back to school in the fall, the easier that semester will be, and the smoother things will be for everybody,” Yazel said. “Our schools have been very responsive, and so I’m excited to move forward on some of that.”

Clark County’s program is currently in the planning stages, and Yazel said residents should monitor the health department’s website for more information.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.