Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Theresa Freed 00:27
Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go, I'm your host Teresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for 16 to 18 year olds for a while now. But recently, the same vaccine was also approved for those 12 to 15. Today to talk more about that we have with us Megan Foreman with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment and Shelby Rebeck with the Shawnee Mission School District. Thank you both for being here. Thank you. To start off with if you can just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do with the county first, and then the school district.
Megan Foreman 00:59
So I'm a program manager with the Department of Health and Environment. And more recently, we do all things COVID here. So I've worked quite a bit this year with all of our public and private school districts and just making sure that kids K-12 are taken care of in schools in terms of disease mitigation for COVID.
Theresa Freed 01:21
Alright, and Shelby.
Shelby Rebeck 01:24
So I'm a nurse here in the school district, Shawnee Mission School District, and I am the director of health services. And as Megan said, this year all things COVID. So on a typical basis, I would help with health conditions, medical issues that come up with our 27,000 students throughout the school year, but this year, it's been all COVID.
Theresa Freed 01:46
Okay, and to continue with that theme we're of course today talking about vaccinating our teens preteens? And can you tell me a little bit about how the process has been going just with vaccinating the 16 to 18 year olds, you've had some some practice, I'm sure with that. Is the school district actually doing some of the vaccinating?
Shelby Rebeck 02:08
Yes, so we did dose ones. We just finished up those twos last Friday. So I do have the data from dose ones, we did over 600 doses. I just don't have the data from last week yet.
Theresa Freed 02:23
And how is that process? Kind of works? Can you explain how you do that?
Shelby Rebeck 02:28
So we send out parent consent forms, and to those minor students and those who return the consent. We had them also ask we had them answer safety questions. And then on the day of vaccine, we called the students down. And we were able to finish up usually within a couple of hours at each of our five high schools. And we also have some students who were in attendance feeder schools like our culinary program, and engineering and things like that, that we were able to bring doses to where the student was at.
Theresa Freed 03:03
And what's the feedback you're getting from students? I'm sure nobody enjoys getting getting a shot. But are they excited about getting this protection? Or what are you hearing?
Shelby Rebeck 03:14
Yeah, I tell you, this was the nicest way to kind of wrap up our school year because every single student who came through either said, thank you so much for doing this. I've been nervous about how I was going to get this, my grandpa is sick, or my mom is sick, and I wanted to be able to protect her. Or we had students say, my dad or my mom said to be sure and tell you thank you you know, so everyone was just so grateful.
Theresa Freed 03:42
That's great. And there's been a high level of coordination with the health department. So Megan, do you want to talk about that kind of broader sense for all Johnson County school districts?
Megan Foreman 03:53
Sure. Well, we were working together, starting in February actually to make sure that we got all of this staff and personnel, the schools vaccinated. So that was a huge lift for Shelby's been in the vaccine game here for months now. But you know, Shawnee Mission did a terrific job actually vaccinating kids where they were at taking that vaccine to the school, which we saw a lot of success with, compared to some other districts who said, Oh, we'll do something on Saturday or not put it during the school day. And so definitely, you know, props to that school district for working so hard on that. Otherwise, we've really just been advertising the Johnson County vaccine clinic that is open in Lenexa, we've got vaccines available at our walk-in clinics. And we have seen an uptick in kids coming through ages 12 and up which we are very excited about.
Theresa Freed 04:47
So now we're into this whole new age group. And I know there were concerns early on about sort of the the middle schoolers and high schoolers being unprotected from from the virus because they are so mobile I guess, or transient. I don't know what you call it, but they get around a lot with a lot of different groups of friends are not like grade school where you're kind of in the same classroom all day. So why why is that so important that that these groups get get vaccinated?
Shelby Rebeck 05:18
Yeah, Theresa, you're absolutely right. It's harder for our middle school and high school students to cohort to stay in that small, same group all day long, because they switch classes all day long. Many of them are also involved in activities and extracurricular events after school, clubs, sports, so it's really hard to keep that same group. So in absence of that, you know, the masking and social distancing and vaccination becomes really important
Theresa Freed 05:48
In terms of actually getting the kids vaccinated. This news of the Pfizer vaccine being available for the 12 to 15 year olds comes at an interesting time in the school year, right? I mean, you're, you're wrapping things up. So are you frantically trying to get everybody vaccinated? Who wants a vaccine at the school? Or, you know, what do you what are you doing for making plans for that sort of thing.
Shelby Rebeck 06:12
So what we're doing here in Shawnee Mission, we're working closely with the county health department, and our hope is that the county and Children's Mercy, and KU and all these other, you know, CVS, and Walmart, and all these places will be able to offer these students a lot of opportunity over the summer to get vaccinated, because we just don't have staff on contract through the summer months. So our staff will come back on in August. And at that time, I'm sure I'll be meeting again with Megan. And we'll be saying, Where are we at? And what does the district need to do at that time?
Megan Foreman 06:49
Yeah, most definitely Shelby. And I think, um, you know, what's important, the reason that I know you all, just really put the pedal to the metal and made sure that you could get those 16 and 17 year olds vaccinated in schools was because we had just enough time to get that second dose. And as you kind of opened up the podcast talking about, and unfortunately, with the release of this coming, when it did, there just wasn't time to make sure that schools could administer that second dose. So, um, you know, that is a very important consideration, and kind of part of what we want to think about when we look big picture.
Theresa Freed 07:23
The concerns that you're hearing from parents, and are their myths that you're hearing. You know, we've we've heard all along that kids are, they're not as likely to get the virus as adults. And we know that's not true. But what else are you hearing?
Shelby Rebeck 07:40
So I don't know if you guys go out and look at all the different school districts data dashboards. But Shawnee Mission data dashboard posted today showed that in the last week, we've had 18 positive cases. Now we have much more than that in isolation, because maybe they have symptoms, and we haven't tested them yet to see, you know, they're still under investigation, what actually is going on. But it's important to keep in mind that children are not, they may get a more mild case, but not always, we've had some very sick kids, even hospitalized kids in our district. So we just want to make sure that everyone is as protected as they can be. So I know that Shawnee Mission will work with the county health department over the summer for those 12 and up kids. And if if they want to use our sites and things like that, we just won't have this staff.
Megan Foreman 08:33
You know, one of the important things to remember about kids and COVID is that kids aged 10 to 19 actually account for about 14% of our total cases in Johnson County. And I think, you know, families and kids have had to live this just this year, they've had sports seasons interrupted, they've had birthday parties, graduations, you know, they've really had to experience what it's like when they have a positive case or an exposure, and how, you know, really, even if they're not terribly ill, it can really interrupt their lives, their studies, their activities. So I think one of the big messages that we're hoping to continue to push for kids 12 and up, you know, getting vaccinated right now also protects people around them who aren't vaccinated. A lot of kids that age probably have younger siblings or other younger kids, maybe that they're babysitting this summer or in camp with this summer. And so, you know, it really takes all of us to get over the finish line of this pandemic. And this age group is another group of people that now can pitch in and get vaccinated.
Theresa Freed 09:41
And so when we kind of compare the COVID symptoms for kids and versus adults, I also want to talk about the vaccine reactions. So you know, as a as an adult who got a vaccine, you know, the day after or a couple days After that second one, second dose was was not necessarily pleasant. So are we seeing this similar thing with with kids? And should should parents expect that and plan around that?
Shelby Rebeck 10:12
Yeah, and we just finished up our dose twos on Friday, but we warned all the students, hey, it's really normal with the second dose, and to kind of have that more robust immune response. And don't worry about it, just do the normal things, you know, hydrate, eat, well get plenty of rest that you would normally do. And I would say 90 to 95% of the kids who came through, we asked them about their dose one, and most all of them said, Oh, I was fine. Maybe you know, my arm might have been a little sore. I was a little tired, maybe had a headache, but no, no big deal. So I think our kids are pretty resilient, maybe even more so than the adults.
Theresa Freed 10:50
So the next question is, you know, in Johnson County, around the state around the country, we've heard that masking guidance has been relaxed some for those who are vaccinated. And so it's a bit challenging because you have some kids who are going to be eligible for vaccine, some kids who are not so I assume it's kind of a when in doubt, you know, take those safety precautions. But what can parents do to to make sure their kids aren't getting sick with the virus this summer?
Shelby Rebeck 11:21
So as you mentioned, we listened to that CDC press conference last Thursday. And I don't know if you caught that Q&A session after that, but someone did specifically ask about schools. And the CDC person responded, we are not advising any changes for masking in schools. They clearly stated that someone asked what about teachers, and they said, No, teachers need to continue masking until their children in their classrooms can be vaccinated. So that is what Shawnee Mission is working on. We put a statement out that Thursday immediately following the CDC announcement that we will continue with our current masking. Of course, we will have ongoing conversations about what next what next fall might look like. But for now, we're encouraging our parents to have their children wear their masks, if they're outside and socially distance, we're a little more comfortable with them taking that mask off. But we want to see those cohorts and that masking and that social distancing continue.
Megan Foreman 12:27
And Shelby, I want to pick up on the point that you made, and you talk about being a little bit more relaxed when kids are maybe outside and distance. I think what that reflects truly is a year of learning about this virus. This was new for all of us last year. And I think that we have explored our data, you guys have done a terrific job gathering data, and making sure that we've really been tracking this virus through schools. And so when we find places where we can relax, we, we feel pretty good about that, because we know that the data supports those decisions. And so I just, you know, commend you for that. And I think we also need to remember that we just opened this up for 12, an up last week, two weeks ago. So you know, in order to be fully vaccinated, you need to be two weeks post that second dose. So we're not looking at potentially having, you know, whole school buildings full of fully vaccinated people until at least the fall. And I think that we're probably even then only looking at potentially high schools, because all of those kids would be age eligible for the vaccine. So it is important to remember that we're not there yet, with all of our population being eligible for vaccine. And we need to continue to do those mitigation measures to protect the youngest among us now, masking and distancing and cohorting, as Shelby talked about.
Theresa Freed 13:51
All right, any final messages on the importance of getting vaccinated when when you're eligible?
Shelby Rebeck 13:59
I would just encourage all the parents out there, get your student vaccinated, it is our path back to normalcy. And these vaccines are safe. It's the same vaccines that you know, it's the same science behind the vaccine that we require for all other school required vaccines. So I just encourage parents to get it done.
Megan Foreman 14:24
I know there's been a lot of conversation about what school will look like in the fall. And why it's important to note that the nurses at the schools and our team here are still working on keeping the kids who are in school safe. So there's a couple weeks left, we have to kind of get over the finish line of this year. But then, you know, we're watching the vaccine uptake rates very closely at the health department. We're also watching variants and some other metrics that kind of go into some of those calculations. And we are looking to release guidance for the fall by about July 1. And I know that it's sort of hard to wait For parents who want to think that they're going to be able to return their kids to a totally normal school here next year, but we still have a little bit of work left to do. I think in vaccinating kids, everyone who is eligible is the thing that we're going to do as a community that will get us closest to the finish line.
Theresa Freed 15:17
So you can book an appointment either on our website at jocogov.org/coronavirus, or you can also go to one of our walk-in clinics and the hours for those are listed at that same web address. Thanks for listening.
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