Vaccine rollout for kids underway

Vaccine rollout for kids underway

Schools and businesses throughout Dane County are providing COVID-19 shots for children over 5 years old.

Children's COVID-19 vaccine clinic sign at entrance of Madison Children’s Museum.
Children's COVID-19 vaccination clinic sign at entrance of Madison Children’s Museum. Young boy sanitizes hands while masked up before leaving the clinic located in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Hannah Ernst.

Over the past month, Dane County schools and businesses launched a series of inoculation efforts following the approval of COVID-19 vaccines for children over the age of five.

Dane County is among the most heavily vaccinated areas in the United States, with 86% of adults receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 shot, and community members are hopeful similar trends will be sustained in vaccinating children.

Clinics thus far were held at a variety of locations, including Prairie Elementary School, Arboretum Elementary School, Badger Ridge Middle School and the Madison Children’s Museum.

Children’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic sign.
Children’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic sign at entrance of Madison Children’s Museum. Photo by Hannah Ernst.

One parent who brought their son to the Madison Children’s Museum clinic said they were eager to vaccinate their child amid concerns of a potential winter surge in cases or

the emergence of a new, more contagious variant. (The parent preferred not to use their name for publication.)

“I’m happy we got this done,” they said. “I’ve been wanting to get my son his shot for a long time, and I’m glad it finally happened.”

 Youth vaccination is occurring as Wisconsin recorded a daily average of more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases a day as of Dec. 5 and the arrival of the Omicron variant in the state. This combination led Gov. Tony Evers to urge Wisconsinites to get themselves vaccinated.

Initial figures from the first month of Dane County’s vaccination efforts indicate a successful campaign. As of late November, Waunakee Community School District Superintendent Randy Guttenberg said almost half of students between the ages of 5 and 11 received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. President and CEO of the Madison Children’s Museum Deb Gilpin said the clinic at her business administered several hundred shots in a matter of hours.

Staff directs guardian and child toward the children's vaccine clinic.
Staff directs guardian and child toward the children's clinic at the Madison Children’s Museum. Photo by Hannah Ernst.

Public Health Madison & Dane County Public Health Supervisor Sarah Hughes attributed the early success of vaccination efforts to the large-scale clinics located throughout the county and collaborative efforts with groups such as Dane County public schools.

“I think one thing that has really set us apart is that we’ve been able to operate a mass-clinic setting,” Hughes said. “The partnerships that we’ve had, as well, are unique. We’ve partnered with school systems, with first responders, with other health systems to meet people where they are and offer vaccinations.”

Yet concerns over rising case numbers sparked debate statewide regarding implementing vaccine mandates for staff and potentially students, with some school districts offering financial incentives to students who receive their shots.

Arts and crafts area for children after they’ve received their COVID-19 vaccine.
Arts and crafts area for children after they’ve received their COVID-19 vaccination from the clinic at the Madison Children’s Museum. Photo by Hannah Ernst.

Several area school districts, including the Madison Metropolitan School District, implemented vaccine mandates for staff. 

Guttenberg said the Waunakee Community School District is not prepared to implement such a mandate, and said while he understands some parents may decide against vaccinating their children, he is hopeful enough students will become vaccinated to return to the district to pre-pandemic normalcy soon.  

“I respect their decisions as parents. Our goal is just to provide that resource to community members who want it, but I think it’s definitely beneficial to our community and our school.”

In Dane County, officials such as Guttenberg appear to have earned the trust of many parents, particularly those who are choosing to vaccinate their children.

Exterior photo of the Madison Children’s Museum children's vaccine clinic site.
Exterior photo of the Madison Children’s Museum. Photo by Hannah Ernst.

The parent at the Children’s Museum clinic said they have faith in the school system their son attends and is thankful for an effort they believed was rooted in science.

“I appreciate a data-driven approach,” they said. “I trust our educators to be professionals and to make recommendations, and I would be inclined to trust their expertise.”

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