Detroit school district launching vaccine program for students

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is hoping to vaccinate thousands of students through a new program announced Monday with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

The district will be authorized to directly administer COVID-19 vaccines for children. School nurses will administer the vaccines, which are mostly the two-shot Pfizer brand, to students starting with six schools among the district's 107 facilities.

“Detroit has a 4% childhood vaccine rate, 10 times less than other surrounding cities. This creates an increased chance of positive cases and outbreaks," Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement. "The significance of providing the vaccine directly to our families and students in their schools, will speed up the process of students resuming in person learning permanently while continuing to implement the highest level of safety precautions."

The district's mask mandate will remain in place because of the low vaccination rates in the city and high transmission rates. Fewer than 40% of Detroit's eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose compared with 65% of the state, according to city and state data. 

Michigan Lt. Gov. Garland Gilchrist, right, gives remarks during a press conference announcing that the Detroit Public Schools Community District will be authorized to directly administer COVID-19 vaccines for children on Monday, Feb. 15, 2022. District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is pictured on the left.

"We're looking forward to the day where it'll be optional to wear the mask for adults and students, but I think we're gonna have a longer runway to release the mask mandate. But it's coming, and I'm optimistic that it will come this year," Vitti said.

The state health department is providing a $100,000 grant to cover the cost for the mobile vaccine clinics, including staffing and materials. To encourage vaccination, the state of Michigan is providing $25 CVS gift cards to each family with a child who participates. More than 2,000 gift cards are available.

The district already has used federal COVID relief funding to hire a nurse in every Detroit district school.  

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel said the agency wants to expand the program beyond Detroit but started with the city because of the lower vaccination rates there. 

"Anyone who has kids in school, they know that the school is central in their communities," Hertel said. "The access for parents, the ease for parents to do that, I think will really make this very productive."

Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti helped announce a school district vaccination effort thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The first six schools participating in this program are: 

  • A.L. Holmes  
  • Coleman A. Young  
  • Earhart 
  • Mumford 
  • Osborn  
  • Southeastern 

The schools will notify parents about the program that starts this week. Appropriate consent from a legal parent or guardian will be needed for students to receive the vaccine.

The district hopes to have first- and second-dose clinics in every school by the end of the school year in June.