ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Monday, Parkway became the first large St. Louis-area school district to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to students who are old enough.
Parkway administrators said nearly 4,000 district high school students are age-eligible, but 350 showed interest and fewer than 200 turned out to get vaccinated.
Administrators said they were surprised by the low turnout. But they said they believe it has more to do with the schedules of busy high school students than it does vaccine reluctance.
Students who are at least 16 years old stood in line outside and in the hallways of Parkway Central Middle School for an opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the gymnasium, health professionals administered the Pfizer shots behind protective blue curtains.
A student whose first name is Griffin explained why he is getting the vaccine.
“Because it helps stop the spread of virus and lessens the effects if I do get it,” said Griffin.
A student named John said, “I know kids our age like to hang out with friends and stuff. In order to do that, they have to get the vaccine.”
“We were a little surprised,” Parkway Interim Health Services Director Katherine Park said of the turnout. “All I can guess at is eligibility for 16-and-up has been out for a couple weeks and there are more and more opportunities that have been available in our area.”
A reporter polled students who conveyed no widespread vaccine reluctance among their peers.
Parkway parent Phyllis Hackman understands the reluctance.
“From my student, I’m just hearing he’s not comfortable with the vaccine,” she said.
Hackman had two students in line waiting to get vaccinated and one who declined.
“He’s extremely careful with social distancing and wearing his mask, and seriously afraid of getting COVID,” said Hackman. “But for whatever reason, he’s just afraid of the vaccine.”
Students who took the shot have a message for those who did not.
“If they’re wanting to go out and spend some time with friends, especially during these times, they should probably be safe and get their vaccination,” said a student named Alice.
Drew added, “I would encourage them to go get the shot. I mean, Parkway set it up nice and easy, here. There’s a lot of places you can get it, and it helps get things to normal a lot sooner.”
The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only one approved for this age group. The second dose clinic is scheduled for Monday, May 17.
5 On Your Side checked with five other area school districts. Rockwood has hosted one clinic for students. Francis Howell, Fort Zumwalt and Ritenour school districts currently have no firm plans for clinics.