Students at Montrose High School

Students walk into Montrose High School's main building during the school year in 2019.

Montrose County School District and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are collaborating to host a vaccination clinic at Montrose High School on Wednesday, September 1 from 3 to 4 p.m.

The school district is focused on pre-registering students and parents with a goal of 100. Parents will need to provide consent for children under the age of 18.

The CDPHE is funding and operating the clinic, which will be distributing the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. Another event is scheduled four weeks later for the second dose.

“We know that as we have more widespread protection through the vaccine, we’re that much more protected from COVID,” MCSD Public Information Officer Matt Jenkins said.

Pfizer’s vaccine is the only inoculation approved for widespread distribution for children and teens.

No vaccine has been approved for children under the age of 12, but clinical trials with thousands of participants have been underway to ensure efficacy rates and determine the safest doses. Pfizer’s CEO said on NBC on Monday that the company is expecting to submit data from trials with children aged 5-11 to the Food and Drug Administration in September.

The FDA granted full approval of Pfizer’s shots on Monday, August 23 for adults and children aged 16 and older. The vaccine is still under emergency use authorization for children between the ages of 12 and 15.

While many employers — including Walmart, the Pentagon and Aurora Public Schools — have already mandated vaccines for some workers, Jenkins said that the district is not planning to require the vaccine yet for students and employees.

However, full FDA approval opens the possibility for the state to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, along with other vaccines that have been mandatory to attend public school for decades.

Colorado, which has looser exemption requirements than some other states, has consistently lagged behind other states for required vaccinations when entering public school with some of the lowest rates for vaccinations against diseases such as measles, chicken pox and hepatitis B. However, rates have been climbing in recent years, as the CDPHE has targeted areas with lower rates and beefed up enforcement.

On the other hand, for COVID-19 vaccines, Colorado is slightly above the national rate of 61%. Just over two-thirds of eligible Coloradans have been fully vaccinated.

The vaccination rate in Montrose County is lagging behind the statewide average, with only 46% of residents 12 and older fully vaccinated. Just over half have received at least one dose.

MCSD is not requiring students and staff to report vaccination status, but Jenkins told the Daily Press last week that employees are encouraged to be proactive and opt-in to submitting COVID vaccination records.

Students and staff who submit vaccination records are not required to enter 10-day quarantines for possible classroom exposure. Jenkins expected that as the school year goes on and more quarantines are necessitated, the district will have a fuller picture of the amount of students and staff who have been vaccinated.

As of August 24, seven staff members and 12 students were actively quarantined. Since August 15, eight cases have been confirmed, according to RE-1J’s COVID dashboard.

Jenkins emphasized that vaccination is a surefire way to keep students and staff safe while maintaining in-person instruction.

“We absolutely encourage anybody who is eligible to participate in vaccination to go ahead and get your vaccine dose if you haven’t already and we’re grateful to those adults and students age 12 and older that have done their part to keep schools and classrooms safe,” Jenkins said. “The more vaccine participation we have, the fewer interruptions there are to the instructional learning process.”

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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