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Gov. Mike DeWine wants Ohio's health departments to work with local schools to set up vaccination clinics

With prom season and high school graduations right around the corner, Gov. DeWine is trying to vaccinate high school students who are 16 and older.

CLEVELAND — With prom season and high school graduations right around the corner, Governor Mike DeWine is now trying to vaccinate high school students who are 16 and older.

He made that announcement during his press conference on Monday, adding that he’d like county health departments to work with their local schools districts to make it happen.

“The big takeaway is yes you can have festivals, parades, graduation, and prom,” said Gov. DeWine.

And with those words came a sense of hope for Beachwood High School senior, Julia Marks, whose been learning from home for most of the year.

“I'm excited for prom despite the differences and the fact it won't be how I originally imagined it,” said Julia Marks.

Marks got vaccinated as soon as she became eligible – and she hopes her classmates follow suit.

“Getting vaccinated, it makes it so people don't have to be so fearful,” said Marks.

Although fewer young people get sick with COVID-19, Governor DeWine says high schoolers are significant carriers of the virus because they interact more frequently with others.

It’s part of the reason why he wants local health departments to work with high schools to set up Pfizer vaccination clinics. Right now, Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for 16 and 17-year-olds.

“This is the next group that's gonna be at risk,” said Geauga County Health Commissioner, Tom Quade. “As soon as we can get some Pfizer vaccine, we’ll start doing clinics in schools.”

Quade says he’s already started the process, by asking local superintendents to send surveys to parents in their districts, to gauge their interest.

“One of the things we want to work with the schools on is the scheduling piece, to make sure they've got the consent in place, because that's gonna be one of the challenging pieces. We're not gonna give an immunization unless we know there's consent, and minors need to get that from a parent or guardian,” said Quade.

What will these surveys look like?

“They’ll say ‘If offered, would you be interested in your child receiving the Pfizer vaccine?’ Just so we can get a temperature in terms of what that demand is,” said Quade.

Nancy Santilli, the superintendent of Kenston Local Schools, is looking forward to working with Quade.

"That's something we would be willing to do as long as it benefits the health of our students, community, and our teachers of course," said Santilli.

As far as prom and graduation, Santilli says they’re both on, for now.

"We are planning to have senior prom. We'll follow all the guidelines, we'll require them to wear masks, and to practice social distancing. We have limited it to seniors only. Normally we have juniors and seniors. We also will be doing our graduation ceremony. That'll be held at an outdoor venue," said Santilli. "Our team started a long time ago planning the what if’s because things change every day. So, we have the plan, the backup plan and the next plan."

As far as when these vaccination clinics might start popping up at Northeast Ohio high schools, officials would like to do it before school breaks for summer.

DeWine does not intend to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for next school year.

“This is entirely up to the individuals, and in the case of the 16 and 17 years old's, they will have to have a permission slip brought into school before they would be able to do that,” said DeWine.

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