RGV schools praise potential approval of COVID vaccine for students despite shots not being mandatory

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) —The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the COVID-19 vaccine for age 12 to 15 early next week, and many school districts say it is good news.  

“As soon as we have the dates for those vaccine drives next week we’re going to go ahead and offer that information now to anyone 12 and over,” said Adolfo Pena Jr., superintendent of Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District.

Pena said that the lack of in-person learning is causing students across the entire Rio Grande Valley to fall behind.  

“In the Rio Grande Valley we have only about 20% of students back in school for in-person instruction while the rest of the state of Texas has 80% already back in school,” said Pena.  

Pena says that though 59% of students ages 16 and up in Starr County have been vaccinated, the news that younger groups will be eligible to be vaccinated means the possibility of more students back in classrooms.  

In Starr County 59% of students 16 and older are vaccinated, but Pena said that the news of younger groups becoming eligible means that more students could go back to classrooms.  

Superintendent of Donna ISD, Hafedh Azaize, said that in-person learning rates are also down in total, and there are usually 25 to 30% of all students on-site.

School districts agree that the key to return to in-person learning is to vaccinate as many people as possible, including parents, staff and students.  

“We’re excited about [the new age approval] because we can bring Pfizer vaccines to more of our students and maybe have more clinics for our students,” said Azaize.   

Edinburg CISD Superintendent Dr. Mario Salinas said that out of the 5,000 staff members over 90% have been fully vaccinated.

Salinas said it was possible thanks to the 50 registered nurses on school campuses that are certified to administer vaccines. He added that he is eager for younger students to be able to receive the vaccine.

“And hopefully soon thereafter they go down to 3-year-old’s and then to 12,” said Salinas.  

According to Salinas, the more people that are vaccinated the more students can participate in summer activities like band and sports — especially upcoming graduation ceremonies. 

Currently, Salinas said that the total for in-person learning on campuses district-wide is 30%.

“We ’re asking our principals especially our seniors because we have graduations coming around the corner,” said Salinas. “Let’s get as many vaccinated as possible.” 

All school districts we spoke with say that though they will continue to follow Center and Diese Control guidelines, and that the vaccine will not be mandatory.  

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