COVID-19 causes backlogs in student immunizations; nurses trying to cope with workload

Student immunizations continued Monday at GW High School. (PNC photo)

Although COVID-19 vaccines dominate the news, students still need to update their regular immunizations for school.

Student immunizations continued today at George Washington High School as school nurses try to reduce the backlog of immunizations caused by COVID-19.

Since last month, GDOE has held mass immunization clinics at various public high schools on island.

Betty Diaz is one of the nurses administering immunizations to keep students up to date, especially those who have been backed up from before the pandemic.

“The nurses, I know, you know … we have been pulled everywhere and all over … the port, the hospital, they’ve been pulled all over. So now that COVID has settled down, we’re trying to catch up I’d say we’ve done about, maybe close to 1,000 and now, you have to remember, these kids need 5 shots each. Parents sometimes are pulling tooth and nail to get them in here, to get their shots. We’ve given some of them 5 dose cocktail, like 3 in one arm, two on the other arm, plus a TB test. We’ve been catching up not so much on the quantity of people but the quality of what we’re doing to help the community,” Diaz said.

GDOE’s school nurses have been at the forefront since the beginning of the pandemic, aiding the community in places they’re needed.

“GDOE nurses never know their schedule from week to week because they could be put at the disposal of Public Health. If they need us in testing sites, home-bound, there are a few nurses here that take the brunt of it. They go all over the place,” Diaz said.

She added: “If there’s a breakout in a community, they’ll pull our nurses, they meet us up in the northern region where we’re going to massively test or meet us up in Yona, where we’re going to test. So these girls go everywhere. I’m a little elderly, I’m one of the older nurses, and sometimes I’m not real keen on being moved around. I’m at least not having a predictable schedule so it’s mostly the younger nurses and I think they’re due for their raises … we all are,” Diaz said.

The students they immunized today were from:

-George Washington High School
-Luis P. Untalan Middle School
-Agueda I. Johnston Middle School and
-Jose Rios Middle School

They focused on 6th and 9th graders for missing TB skin tests and 8th-grade students preparing for 9th-grade health requirements.

According to Diaz, some of the off-island students need additional immunizations because they are not available to them where they’re from.

She advises parents to take the time and take advantage of the free clinics while they are still operational.