In addition to their classes and extracurriculars, students at Mayo High School at least 16 years old have the option to squeeze one more thing into their schedules on Monday: A COVID-19 vaccine.
A vaccine clinic at Mayo High School is just one of many being held throughout the county as Olmsted Public Health ramps up its efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible.
According to Dan Jensen, the operations chief for the Olmsted County COVID response, 72% of the population age 16 and older in Olmsted County has received at least one dose of the vaccine so far. Among 16- and 17-year-olds, only 45% has received a dose of the vaccine.
Students 16 and older have been eligible to get vaccines for a few weeks. Jensen, however, said that taking the clinics directly into the schools is a way to help close any gaps that may exist for some students.
"We're moving away from what we had previously called 'large clinics.' Now we're moving into what we call 'targeted clinics,'" Jensen said. "Let's target specific portions of the population and work with them. Because they may have transportation barriers; they may have barriers on what vaccine is offered. So if we can understand where those targeted groups are that have lower levels of vaccine and understand what their barriers are, we can work with them to remove them."
One barrier for 16- and 17-year-olds is that they are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, Jensen said. Since they're minors, they also need a parent or guardian's approval.
Jensen said the county has offered to take a vaccine clinic into every high school in the county. Not every school accepted the offer since they didn't think they'd have enough numbers to justify a separate clinic. Jensen said that overall, the public health department has either vaccinated or is scheduled to vaccinate aobut 200 people through the in-school clinics thus far.
Even though those in-school clinics may not be reaching thousands of people, Jensen said it's still a positive thing.
"It will still make a huge impact in the area where they work. Whether it's their job or the friends they're hanging around with, or their faith-based location," Jensen said. "Wherever they're at, it will make an impact because it will help all those little sub-areas, if you will, move closer to herd immunity."
In the large Rochester schools, there is a fairly large number of students who have to quarantine because of exposures that happen. There were 32 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the district during the week of April 19-25. During that same period, there were more than 540 teachers and students in quarantine, more than 100 more than the week prior. The number in quarantine is about 3% of the student population.
Like Mayo High School, Pine Island is set to have a vaccination clinic in its high school on Monday. Principal Mitch Schiltz said he didn't know the exact number of students who would be eligible. However, it would essentially constitute the junior and senior classes of the school's 400 students, he said.
Schiltz said school officials have tried to provide students with information about how to get the vaccine if they want it. He also said they've tried to teach students how to make independent choices about what is right for them to do personally rather than impose any one directive on them.
"As far as whether or not you should do it, we've tried to stay neutral. What we have tried to promote it as an opportunity. If it's something you want, here it is," Schiltz said. "Our job is to help kids look at it objectively -- look at the information and make their decision."