POLAND — Poland Regional High School junior Latrell Mongo, 16, was among the first in Maine to get a COVID-19 vaccination at school Tuesday.
“I got the shot because I work,” Mongo said. “I’d rather not have to quarantine and not be able to work and make money.”
Students exposed to anyone with COVID-19 have to quarantine, unless they’re two weeks past their final vaccination. Getting the shot at school was helpful and convenient, Mongo said.
He recommends other students get vaccinated so, hopefully, in the fall school can return to normal. No more hybrid schedules with classes half full. No more remote learning.
“Online learning is annoying,” Mongo said. “No one my age likes online learning. It’s hard to get work done.”
More shots for students are on the way with the federal Food and Drug Administration approving Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 to 15 years old.
“I’m super excited,” Poland Regional High School Principal Cari Medd said. Providing vaccinations “is like we’re finally being proactive instead of reactive.”
Health care workers from Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, part of MaineHealth, started providing shots to students 12 and older at several western Maine schools, including Poland and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, Hebron Academy, Buckfield Junior-Senior High School and Telstar High School in Bethel.
Two schools are busing students to the hospital’s Norway clinic.
The school clinics will offer two to three sessions, and schedule return visits in 21 days for the second doses, according to SMH Practice Manager Karen Gurney.
The hospital sent “a big crew,” complete with pharmacists and vaccinators, Medd said. “It went well. I’m super grateful.”
The clinic was held in the auditorium with plenty of room to social distance.
About a dozen students came for shots Tuesday, because many had already been vaccinated at the Auburn Mall clinic, administered by Central Maine Healthcare, Medd said.
The numbers are expected to be higher Thursday.
Medd sent out a notice to parents of middle and high school students Tuesday morning letting them know students 12 and older can be vaccinated. Within 90 minutes parents had already signed up 40-plus students.
Having the younger students vaccinated “will make a huge difference,” Medd said. “It’s the other half of the high school,” as well as the adjacent middle school.
Stephens Memorial Hospital’s top doctor said he’s delighted the FDA has lowered the age eligibility.
“This is a positive move in the battle against COVID-19,” Chief Medical Officer Gregory Hardy said in an email.
“The more people that can fight the spread, the better off we all are,” he said. “Parents’ concern is expected and appropriate. I advise them to contact their local trusted provider with those concerns.”