Two dozen nursing students from the University of Maine will fan out to school clinics in the Bangor area to help newly eligible kindergartners to fifth-graders get inoculated against COVID-19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Tuesday. Dr. Nirav Shah of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a briefing last month that the state was primed to immediately begin vaccinating children in school clinics and pediatric offices once federal officials approved it.
As many as 30 nursing students will be dispatched to 14 different schools starting this week in partnership with Penobscot Community Health Care, said Kelley Strout, the director of UMaine’s nursing school and an associate professor.
Two to four volunteer nursing students will be dispatched to each clinic at schools in Bangor, Veazie, Hermon and other area towns.
Regional School Unit 22, with schools in Hampden and Winterport, and the Bangor School Department announced Thursday that they would begin vaccinating kids at school clinics on Monday.
The volunteers have been assisting in vaccination efforts for adults and adolescents since January, performing more than 10,000 vaccinations, said Meryl McCarthy, pediatric course coordinator for UMaine’s nursing school.
The students will be volunteers from the senior nursing class who have undergone competency training on intramuscular injections and vaccinations and are in the middle of their pediatric rotations, McCarthy said.
“They have all of the skills necessary to administer these vaccines and we’re using this opportunity to get them into the community where they can provide the support and the service to kids vaccinated in the school system,” she said.
It’s not the first time UMaine has seized the opportunity to allow its students to assist in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early in the pandemic, the university graduated its 38 nursing students earlier than planned so they could become licensed and enter the workforce early to assist other frontline health care workers.