Holly Vacca, the nurse manager for the Schenectady City School District, injected a dose of the Pfizer vaccine into 17-year-old Myasia Page’s arm Sunday.
Vacca, who managed one of a dozen vaccine stations at Schenectady High School Sunday, warmly told Page it was an exciting day because she was bound to get her life back from the rigors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schenectady County held a point-of-dispensing for the COVID-19 vaccine at the school. Of the approximately 650 appointments available for students, just shy of 300 people received the vaccine, including 89 who walked in without an appointment. The unused doses will be added to the next Pfizer POD, county spokeswoman Erin Roberts said.
It was the county’s entry to targeting 16- and 17-year-olds, with doses of Pfizer now in hand for the first time since that young age group became eligible for the vaccine earlier this month.
After the injection, Page waited in an observation area for possible aftereffects of the vaccine with her mother Janell.
With her second dose due in weeks to come, Page said taking the first step helped “alleviate any worries that I have regarding getting sick.”
Page said meeting her friends less often, and worrying about her own health have been the biggest concerns the pandemic has had on her life.
“She has underlying health issues,” said her mother, who’s already been vaccinated.
Another 17-year-old student, Josephine Holt, said the injection didn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary.
“It was really fast and really efficient,” said Holt, a senior. “I’m glad that I was able to get it and boost the herd immunity; and also, that means that we’re one step closer to not having COVID anymore.”
Holt said not being able to attend school in person last year had a detrimental effect on her grades, and has dampened her high school experience.
“But it’s okay,” she said. “I understand that it’s a global pandemic.”
Her mother, Sandra Holt of Connecticut, said she was in town to help her daughter shop for a prom dress. She said the POD was helpful to parents like her.
“This is super convenient,” she said. “Parents are busy; kids are busy. Scheduling is a challenge, particularly with school, to pull people out of school and so forth. So I just think it was very well organized, and I’m glad to get her vaccine so we can, to her point, move towards maybe some sense of normalcy in the future.”
Now that the county has a significant number of Pfizer doses, it will be important to conduct as many targeted PODs as possible, specifically trying to reach 16- and 17-year olds, county interim health director Keith Brown said, adding hope that vaccines will become available to ages 12 to 15 eventually.
More than 51 percent of the adult population has already received the first dose of a vaccination, which Brown said the county is proud of.
Graduations and other large events are on the way in the coming months, and state guidelines will require either proof of vaccination or a negative test result to be able to attend.
“Rather than have a desperate scramble in June to try to get vaccinated and to try to get tested — and getting tested is not easy to do still — come get vaccinated,” Brown said. “It’s free, it’s safe, and we’re making this accessible to people.
The county will hold additional PODs targeting 16- and 17-year-olds, but location will depend on demand, Brown said.
“If people want to move to a different school, we can certainly look at that, and there’s also the option of working with the schools to do specific vaccine PODs during the day in the schools using the school nurses,” he said. “We’ll partner with them and whatever way makes sense … We’re incredibly flexible.”
Executive High School Principal Christopher Chank said vaccinating 16- and 17-year-olds was a sign of getting closer to normal.
“I think it is really great for everyone’s mental health and and putting anxieties to rest,” said Crank, whose tenure as head of the school began during COVID.
“It’s hard to predict what September will look like but it’s our hope, with a large percentage of our students and staff getting vaccinated, that we will be able to get back to what we were before COVID.”
Schenectady County Legislator Sarah Mae Pratt, vice chairwoman of Health and Human Services, said appointments for the general public to get a vaccine can be made on schenectadycounty.com or through the Schenectady County Public Library at 518-299-0518 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Pratt said she’s excited that Schenectady County ranks fourth statewide, at 51.5 percent regarding adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of April 23.
“That number just keeps increasing every day,” she said, “and I think we can feel very hopeful, as things start opening up again and people start gathering together again like we used to. I look around and I see more and more people every day getting this vaccine and doing their part to help keep our communities safe and healthy.”