But like everything else in the pandemic, the coronavirus vaccines have become caught up in partisan politics. Some school officials are finding that persuading parents to get their students vaccinated is difficult, and some are encountering resistance to using schools as vaccination clinics.
The school district in Anchorage has been a national leader in encouraging vaccination. A clinic it hosted at the district headquarters drew 29,000 people between January and April, many of them older adults eager for their shots, the district superintendent, Deena Bishop, said in an interview.
But when Anchorage set up clinics in schools over the summer, the demand was much lower; those clinics vaccinated only about 30 students a day, Dr. Bishop said. She said athletes, in particular, respond to the message that vaccination can help them avoid having to quarantine after an exposure to the coronavirus.
“Kids will bug their parents more about playing sports and having a vaccine than they would just to go to science class,” she said, adding, “We’re disappointed in the number of people coming out to get vaccinated, but we’re just trying to think of new ways, new manners to connect.”
Dr. Cardona reiterated the president’s call for schools to host pop-up vaccine clinics. But some superintendents said school-based clinics, which typically partner with local pharmacies or county health departments, are an especially hard sell in rural areas where there is already resistance to vaccination.
“For people who are for it, it’s an easy one — they support vaccination as a strong strategy to fight Covid, and they don’t see any issue with the use of public space,” said Kristi Wilson, the superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District, just outside Phoenix, and the immediate past president of the superintendents association.
“But the other side I’m hearing is, ‘Where do you draw the line? Who’s going to administer it? Even if public health does it, is it an appropriate use of space?’” she said. “If you have a community that is very anti-vaccination, how do you manage that?”