With graduation next month, Grand Island Senior High School students and staff members received their COVID-19 vaccinations Friday at the high school.
Lee Jacobsen, school safety coordinator, said it was the first day that the students and staff received the vaccine together after the process was opened up to everyone at least 18 years old. Students 18 years old or who are graduating this spring were eligible for the shots.
The Central District Health Department administered the vaccinations.
“What’s a better place to get one than at the high school,” Jacobsen said.
He said hopefully the vaccinations will be opened to students 16 years and older soon.
“They (CDHD) were trying to get those seniors who are graduating and going back out to the workforce so they are vaccinated and ready to go to work or to college,” Jacobsen said.
GISH senior Oscar Murcia received his vaccination Friday.
Murcia said he has been wanting to get his vaccination “for the longest time.”
He praised Grand Island Public Schools for bringing the vaccine to the high school.
“I’m very excited that they were able to go out and do that for us,” Murcia said.
He said his senior year has been different because of the virus.
“It has been a different environment because we had to do remote learning,” Murcia said.
There wasn’t any hesitation for him about getting the vaccine, though he said he is not fond of needles.
“I have a big fright of needles,” Murcia said. “But today, I just went for it. I didn’t think about it. I was just so glad to get the vaccine.”
Jacobsen said with Friday being the first day of the vaccinations for high school seniors, they wanted to gauge how the process went and then take the next step of administering the vaccine to younger students.
The students and staff members received the Pfizer vaccine and will receive the second round of shots in three weeks.
“Our next step is to get the families of these students involved,” Jacobsen said.
He said by having the students and their families vaccinated, it will help stop the spread of the virus and slowly open the school to normal activities by next fall.
“We are always planning ahead and that is one of our steps that we are trying to do,” Jacobsen said.
By having the students receive the vaccination, hopefully that encourages their parents who have not received the shot to go to a vaccination clinic and receive it.
“We have a diversity of cultures,” Jacobsen said. “Sometimes, within that culture, you may have the same language, but the culture is different in the way they were brought up. There is a little fear and we want to try to alleviate that as much as possible.”
He said that can be achieved by letting those students, who have been to a school clinic and feel comfortable with the school, offer the same vaccination they received to their families.
“We are going to work with the health department and our next step is communicating that out to the families,” Jacobsen said.
During the course of the school year, students and staff members have been held to the strictest of safety codes, including wearing masks, since the school reopened last August.
“The students have been great,” Jacobsen said. “Now, we want to start taking those steps, like the rest of the community has already. Part of that is that vaccination.”
Another of the students receiving the vaccine was Lluliana Mora, a GISH senior.
Mora said she had been hesitant about receiving the shot at first.
“I was a little nervous,” she said. “It didn’t really hurt. I didn’t feel it.”
But, Mora said, she knew the shot was important to keep her healthy.
Jacobsen praised the people of Grand Island and Hall County as the number of people getting the virus has been steadily going down.
He also credited the Central District Health Department and how it has handled the vaccinations in helping the community bring down the number of COVID-19 cases, along with companies such as JBS, in being proactive in battling the virus among their workers.
Along with the vaccinations, Jacobsen said education about the virus is also important so students can make good choices.
“We understand that we are still in a pandemic, but we want to make that finish line. We are not going to slow down until we get themselves and their families and bring that information back home to their parents and grandparents,” Jacobsen said.
Also, getting the students vaccinated will help in keeping the various COVID-19 variants from spreading in the community.
“We want to finish this school year out really good and have a fantastic graduation,” he said.
This year’s graduation is planned for the high school’s Memorial Stadium.
Carly Gartner, another senior, said she was “super excited” about getting vaccinated Friday.
“I am really glad that they are offering this opportunity for us, especially seniors, as we are going to be going off to college,” Gartner said. “I just feel good to get vaccinated before we go.”
She said she was not hesitant about getting the shot.
“I know that there could be some side effects,” Gartner said. “I figured I could have a couple of side effects rather than get COVID and get really sick or something.”
While her senior year has been different because of the pandemic, she said, “It has brought some good things in disguise. It has been good, but it has also been tough.”
“I’m hoping that we can have an in-person graduation,” Gartner said. “This (vaccination) is a step of getting there.”