By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham City Schools (BCS) and Alabama Regional Medical Services (ARMS) are teaming up to make sure COVID-19 vaccinations are available to students 12 and up ahead of the fall semester which begins August 2.
“We want to do everything possible to allow our students to return to in-person learning and enjoy participating in extracurricular activities in the fall,” said Superintendent Mark Sullivan during a virtual Zoom call last week. “We spent a large part of the academic year doing virtual learning and while some of our scholars thrived in this environment, others did not . . . we want all of our students to achieve their highest potential and . . . we want everyone to be safe.”
On Wednesday, ARMS opened a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Wenonah High School in southwest Birmingham that will be opened again on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. where doses will be administered.
Anthony Gardner, CEO, of ARMS, said his organization’s mission is to “eliminate barriers of access to health care . . . to ensure that our students can get back to school safely and enjoy themselves and be with their friends and teachers.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the way for individuals who are 12 and up to be vaccinated, Sullivan said.
“We have more than 10,000 BCS students who fall within that age group,” he explained. “Many of our students have already been vaccinated by UAB but Alabama Regional Medical Services will offer vaccinations in several of our schools beginning with Wenonah High School.”
Vaccinations will be available for all students along with permission from their parent or guardian. Sullivan said additional school locations will be announced in the coming weeks.
Students or parents can register for vaccinations through an online portal and get an appointment, or walk-up to the site. Registration is available at arms.timetap.com.
Gardner said transportation will be provided for those who want to access the site. “You can reach out to the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency at 205-858-2221 for a ride to Wenonah on next Wednesday for this opportunity or you can receive a free ride through the Uber and Lyft apps,” he said.
Measures are in place for students and parents who don’t want the vaccine, Sullivan said.
“Right now, it is not mandatory for students to be vaccinated . . . if someone becomes sick, they will go to an isolation room, parents contacted,” he said. “… we will continue the same process we do now, if you’re not vaccinated you will have to quarantine for 10 to 14 days and we will just follow those same protocols for unvaccinated students.”
The goal is to return to safe, in-person learning for all BCS students and have as many students vaccinated by the first day of school as possible, said the superintendent.
“This is our best shot to have a safe return to in-person learning and have some sense of normalcy for next year,” he said. “Our goal is to get all of our students who are eligible vaccinated. Our data is telling us face-to-face instruction is the best way to educate students, however, we want to make sure our students are safe.”