LYNN ― With kids and parents pouring into the Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School gym on Tuesday afternoon, the Lynn Public Schools started a series of free COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children of 5 years of age and older in partnership with Mass General Brigham and the Health Department.
In total, LPS will hold five COVID-19 vaccination clinics between this and next week. Some Lynn school nurses are assisting with the vaccinations.
The vaccination clinic at Fecteau-Leary School on Tuesday was organized by the North Shore Physicians Group (NSPG), which is an affiliate of Mass General Brigham (MGB) and Salem Hospital. All of the vaccines were supplied by MGB.
The COVID-19 vaccines are free to the families. No pre-registration, insurance, or IDs are required.
“We didn’t want registration to be a barrier. We wanted everybody who wants to be vaccinated to be able to be vaccinated,” said Jacqueline Westrin, Lynn’s assistant director of nursing, who was at the Fecteau-Leary clinic monitoring the line of visitors and handing out consent forms to parents in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese. She said that the department has also prepared forms in Khmer and Creole.
The hallway leading to the gym was bustling around 3 p.m. with children, who came to get their vaccine shot with one or both parents. In some cases, both the students and their parents received a shot of the vaccine simultaneously on Tuesday, Westrin said.
Inside the gym, NSPG staff set up a check-in table and two vaccination tables ― one for children under 11 years old and another one for individuals older than 11. Checked-in visitors were waiting for the vaccine shots on the bleachers. Some children were playing with a basketball or puttering around a ping-pong table.
Rosemary Ekpebar brought in her 6-year-old son, Ayo, for vaccination because she wanted him to be safe. She said his school emailed them about the vaccine.
“I didn’t even think about it. I was like ‘let’s go, let’s go get it,’” said Ekpebar. “He will be fine. I know it will be sore for two to three days, but (it) doesn’t even matter. He will be OK. I am glad he took the shot.”
Shelly Vandenberhag came with her three children, ages 2, 6, and 8.
“I am looking forward to this pandemic to come to an end and life (to) go back to normalcy and this is an important step to do that,” said Vandenberhag about her decision to vaccinate her two eldest children.
Her 6-year-old daughter, Lille, who goes to the Lynn Woods Elementary School, said she was very nervous about the shot, but hopeful that she won’t have to wear a mask anymore.
Children’s Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations include two rounds of shots, just like adult ones.
“I think parents who are getting their kids vaccinated now are very eager for the vaccine,” said Bailey Bollen, community health lead at the NSPG. “Most people who are signing up now are very confident in the safety of the vaccine.”
She said they anticipate more questions from parents who will be coming with their children to clinics in several weeks. Her team was handing out literature about pediatric studies, and the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines from MGB.
Bollen said that NSPG, which covers communities from Saugus to Rowley, is currently focusing on Lynn, Salem, and Peabody, where the COVID rates are highest and the vaccination rates are lowest. On Tuesday, her team vaccinated 90 people by 3 p.m. between the Salem and Lynn clinics. Their average pediatric turnaround per day has been about 80 people of 5 to 11 years of age, Bollen said.
According to a weekly report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, as of Nov. 11, 73 percent of Lynn youth ages 12-15 had at least one dose of the vaccine and 64 percent are fully vaccinated; among 16- to 19-year-old teenagers, 80 percent had at least one dose of the vaccine and 70 percent are fully vaccinated.
The LPS website underscores that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and that getting a vaccine will not impact a family’s immigration status.
On Wednesday, Nov. 17, another COVID-19 vaccination clinic for children of 5 to 11 years of age, sponsored by the Lynn Health Department, will take place at the Tracy Elementary School gym from 1 to 3 p.m.
Children of 5 years old and older can also get a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School gym Wednesday, Nov. 17 from 3 to 5 p.m., the Breed Middle School gym on Tuesday, Nov. 23 from 2 to 4 p.m., the Pickering Middle School gym on Wednesday, Nov. 24 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Westrin said that LPS is hoping to set up more clinics in the future with the Department of Health and the Lynn Community Health Center.