Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) kicked off the national rollout of COVID-19 vaccination for children ages 5-11 today, when the school division welcomed First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to a clinic at the school where the first polio vaccine was administered in 1954.
The First Lady toured the clinic at Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, where she handed out “Superstar” stickers to newly vaccinated 5-11 year olds.
Surrounded by a group of children who had just received their first dose, she urged all parents to follow in the footsteps of the polio pioneers and have their children vaccinated as soon as possible.
“This vaccine is the best way to protect your children against COVID-19. It’s been thoroughly reviewed and rigorously tested, it’s free and it’s available for every child aged five and up,” Dr. Biden told an audience of parents and their newly vaccinated children.
Franklin Sherman Elementary School made history on April 26, 1954, when a group of FCPS parents made the decision to have their children be part of the Polio Pioneer campaign that kicked off nationwide polio vaccine field trials. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis officials initially tapped other surrounding counties to participate in the nationwide trial, but as the start date approached, Fairfax was the only one to stay the course.
Fairfax doctor Richard Mulvaney administered the first doses of the Salk vaccine field trials to a group of 114 FCPS students, most of whom were in second grade. Those students, who started the nation on the path to eradicate polio, came to be known as Polio Pioneers.
Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand, School Board Chair and Sully District Representative Stella Pekarsky, Vice Chair and At-Large Member Rachna Sizemore Heizer, and Franklin Sherman Principal Kathleen Quigley discussed the historic significance of the school, as well as its VaxUP partnership with the Fairfax County Health Department, Inova, and the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, aimed at expediting the vaccination process for its youngest students and ensuring access to the vaccination for all.
“Widespread vaccination is key to keeping students learning in-person and preventing school or division closures and keeping our school staff and students safe. We are proud to be leading the way in the vaccination rollout for children ages 5-11, just as we did with the Polio vaccine in 1954,” said Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand.
More than 85% of Fairfax County students aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. FCPS has successfully implemented layered prevention strategies since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and continues to have both an extremely low positivity rate (0.35%) and transmission rate (0.02%) in its schools .
In collaboration with its partners, FCPS will soon host school-based vaccination clinics evenings, weekends, and during the school day. The school division has partnered with a private vendor to establish in-school clinics where students can be vaccinated with parent or guardian permission and with or without parent or guardian present.
FCPS is providing multilingual information to families to help inform them of the many options available to them to vaccinate their children through websites, newsletters, and social media, as well as access to a portal to sign up for clinics.
FCPS’ partner, the Fairfax County Health Department, is hosting multiple mass vaccination clinics, pop-up clinics at school sites in the evening and/or weekends as well as supporting school-based clinics during the school day. Inova Children’s is holding weekend pediatric vaccination clinics at the Inova Center for Personalized Health and Inova Cares Clinic for underserved communities, while members of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics will be delivering more than 3,900 vaccines per week through its pediatricians.
“This multifaceted roll-out through these partnerships is key to ensuring that all our families and our youngest students have access to the vaccination - and our schools remain open. We are proud of the way the schools, County and our private partners have come together to ensure that everyone who wants the vaccination will be able to get it,” said Fairfax County School Board Chair, Stella Pekarsky.
Thousands of families have already scheduled appointments using these different options less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccine for 5-11 year olds.