Anderson County Health Department brings COVID-19 vaccine to high schools

Education

CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE)– Anderson County Schools partnered with the Anderson County Health Department to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to students 16 years and older.

Ryan Sutton, spokesperson for Anderson County Schools, said about 45 students between Anderson County and Clinton high schools received their first Pfizer dose Monday morning.

Sutton said parents were asked if they wanted their child vaccinated the week before.

It was an optional vaccination, Sutton said, giving students easy access to the vaccine.

“I think that Dr. Parrot and his staff were kind of on the forefront just with staff members and adults in the building when we did our shot clinic about a month ago, and offered that, which was super nice…. and Dr. Parrott and his staff again jumped on board to be able to make it for our kids,” Travis Freeman, Assistant Principal of Anderson County High said.

Freeman said he saw a line of students waiting to get the vaccine this morning.

He said the pandemic was tough on everyone, but when it came to high school, it was tough on administration, teachers, coaches, and students when it came to the contact tracing system.

“All of a sudden, you get a call from your nurse that says ‘hey we got a positive, we need to contact trace’, so you pretty much had to put everything else on hold,” Freeman said.

Freeman said that although ACS had a great virtual plan, it was tough on students–and parents– if they had to quarantine for 10, 24, or 30 plus days depending on how many times they’ve were considered a close contact to someone who tested positive with COVID-19.

He said some students have had to stay home for 30 or more days because of that.

With students getting vaccinated, that issue is gone (for those vaccinated students).

“That to me is probably the biggest thing to contact tracing. ‘Hey I’ve been vaccinated, and I don’t have to go home and miss 10 days of school because I have the vaccination’,” Freeman said.

Hazel Hensley, a sophomore at Clinton High, knew exactly what Freeman was talking about.

Although she had two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, her last shot was only a week ago, and she had since been contact traced, forced to quarantine at home for 10 days.

“So I’ve been contact traced, I think this is my third or second time this year,” Hensley said.

Hensley said the school year had been different for her, especially with being on the color guard team.

They couldn’t go on away games, but she was glad her crew was at least allowed to perform.

“There wasn’t as many people, so the crowds were not as loud, but still, we were happy to have a season,” Hensley said.

As far as having to participate in virtual class when she’s had to quarantine, she never liked it.

“Focusing is my hardest part, because there’s a lot of distractions at home,” Hensley said.

She said she didn’t the vaccine so she wouldn’t have to quarantine anymore.

Instead, she got it for her grandparents, and to be able to be part of the solution.

Hensley said she even hopes getting the vaccine herself would encourage her friends to get it as well.

“I wanted to show my friends that it’s not gonna like hurt them, or hopefully not, so I wanted to make sure they knew that if I could do it, they could do it,” Hensley said.

She said she was glad the district made it easier for her friends to get the vaccine because that was a reason why some of her friends hadn’t received their shots yet. They couldn’t drive, and their parents didn’t have time to take them.

Not having to quarantine would be a plus, though.

Allen Russell, a special education teacher, and coach of the Anderson County High softball team said for student-athletes, quarantining could be the make or break of the season.

In the first game of opening week, the team they were supposed to play got contact traced, so that game was gone.

It happened more than once, Russell said.

“Last week, another team got contact traced, a district team, and we had to play a double-header on Thursday night because our district tournament starts tomorrow,” Russell said.

He said that game was nerve-wracking because it was two big games for them, back to back.

Now, when they have a game, Russell said he reaches out to the coach that day to see if the game was still on and if the details hadn’t changed.

He said if one of his students were contact traced between now and next week, the season would be over for his team.

“That’s ten days off you can’t play or do anything. Well, in ten days our tournament would be over, and the regional starts. So if we can’t play in that tournament, we can’t go to regional’s, if you can’t go to regional’s, you can’t go to state,” Russell said.

That’s why his girls are carrying around a plexiglass window, taking any precautions they can to be safe, at least while at school.

He said that’s also why he’s glad the district brought the vaccine to the students.

Russell knew if the vaccine was last year, his seniors from the 2020 season would have received the vaccine in a heartbeat so they wouldn’t have missed out on their last year to play in high school.

Courtney Neer, a senior at Anderson County High, knows that all too well.

She was fortunate enough to play some basketball this year, but due to contact tracing, some games were cancelled.

“Around Christmas time, one of my teammates did get COVID. So, the entire team was quarantined for a couple of weeks, so we didn’t get to compete in any Christmas tournaments or anything like that,” Neer said.

Neer got her COVID-19 vaccine at the clinic held at her high school on Monday.

She said it didn’t hurt, at least not yet.

She’s hoping that getting the shot, and others doing the same, will make the last few weeks of her senior year just a little more normal.

“We’re going to be able to have more events with more people, like graduation we’ll be able to have more people attend and see us graduate,” Neer said.

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