Katherine Mansfield/Observer-Reporter

Eric McElhone holds his daughter’s lollipop while Ella Briggs, a kindergartner at Charleroi Elementary, comforts her friend Reese McElhone as Reese receives her COVID-19 vaccine. Briggs also received the shot during Charleroi Area School District’s clinic last month.

Since the beginning of June, 150,000 unvaccinated Americans have died due to COVID-19.

That’s roughly the same number of people living in Syracuse, N.Y., or Eugene, Ore., almost the same number of U.S. troops killed in the Vietnam War and 50 times the number of Americans killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And all those deaths could have easily been prevented, since vaccines have been widely available since last spring and have been shown to be very safe and extremely effective in preventing severe illness and death from the coronavirus. And yet some combination of bullheadedness and ignorance has led thousands of people in this country to decide they are better off not rolling up their sleeves but rolling the dice and crossing their fingers that they don’t catch the disease.

It’s a gamble that has not paid off for many people.

Now that children aged 5 and beyond can receive a vaccine, getting the shots administered in school buildings would seem a convenient and uncomplicated way for them to be protected when they are in classrooms, and then help protect their parents, grandparents and siblings when they go home. Many school districts have hosted successful vaccine clinics and have made valuable contributions to the health and safety of their communities as a result. The Canon-McMillan School District teamed up with UPMC Pittsburgh for a clinic on Wednesday, and the Trinity and Washington school districts have clinics on tap later this month.

However, some school districts have decided they want no part of vaccinating students on their property, succumbing either to rampant misinformation or cowardice in the face of parents or community members who oppose the vaccines. The board in the McGuffey School District voted against hosting a vaccine clinic last month, as did the Franklin Regional School District in Westmoreland County. Other districts have adopted a kind-of head-in-the-sand approach, staying mum on the vaccines and not considering clinics.

Before the McGuffey school board voted against hosting a vaccine clinic, they heard from a parent who informed the board that the COVID-19 vaccines will turn people into zombies within five years. One board member said a clinic would be “a direct violation” of the district’s health and safety plan, though it’s hard to figure out how inoculating students against a deadly pathogen would be either unhealthy or unsafe. In the Franklin Regional district, one school board member proclaimed that district buildings were not medical facilities, and while that may be true, administering vaccines hardly requires surgical theaters or birthing centers. School districts have long had a vested interest in the health and well-being of students, as evidenced by nurses being on staff and requirements that pupils be vaccinated for chickenpox, diphtheria, rubella and other contagious diseases.

School board members who are voting against vaccine clinics need to think less about how they are viewed today and more about how they will be viewed 50 or 100 years from now. Do they really want the students of 2071 or 2121 to be wondering why, in the face of a mounting death toll and an overwhelming scientific consensus, they could have made such bad decisions?

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