GDOE welcomes 12 years and above vaccination as it moves towards more face-to-face learning

Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)

The Guam Department of Education is welcoming the likelihood that the Department of Public Health and Social Services will allow the vaccination of 12-year-olds and above soon.

According to GDOE, expanding the vaccination eligibility to the younger teens will further improve safety in the island’s private schools and is a welcome development in light of the move towards more face-to-face instruction.

Pfizer has already applied with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for young adults age 12 and older and ABC News is reporting that USDA approval could come as early as this week.

All people in America 16 years and older are already eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and anyone 18 years and older is eligible for Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

Here on Guam, the Vaccine and Antiviral Prioritization Policy Committee (VAPPC) members already discussed the latest developments with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the plan to expand coverage to 12 years and above.

The Department of Public Health and Social Services is just waiting for approval from the FDA, and, if approved, implementing guidelines from both the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Jon Fernandez, superintendent of GDOE, which has many students falling under the 12 years and above category, said that approval of the expanded category would be good news to the department which continues to address safety considerations in the resumption of face-to-face instruction.

GDOE is adopting more face-to-face instruction this summer term and in the next school year after receiving feedback that 80 percent of public school students would be willing to go back to the classrooms for in-person instruction.

However, GDOE has been estimating capacity problems within the island’s public schools as students are still required to be 3-feet apart. The vaccination of students 12 years old and above would obviously help improve safety considerations at the island’s public schools as well as ease many parents’ concerns.

“I think the vaccination progress will help improve safety considerations at schools as we work to open up for five days of instruction,” Fernandez told PNC.

He added that they are already meeting with DPHSS and will be teaming up with them to approve a plan for the next school year.

As for the actual vaccinations of students 12 years old and above, Fernandez sees no logistical problem as they have already been conducting school vaccination drives.

“We have already been partnering with DPHSS on school-based vaccination drives for 16 years and older students so we expect to do the same when the 12-plus age group is approved,” Fernandez said.