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Getting students vaccinated before school starts takes a different approach in Niagara, Chautauqua counties

a yellow school bus parked next to a sidewalk
File Photo
Public health officials are pushing to get students vaccinated against COVID-19 before the fall school year begins.

Every school district has a little different setup for getting kids to school. In Buffalo, for example, some walk, while others travel in groups based on grade level by school or Metro bus.

For some districts in Chautauqua and Niagara counties, there are widely varied age groups on buses. Older students can be vaccinated, but many younger ones can't or won't. It's a parental choice for children age 12-17.

Chautauqua County Public Health Director Christine Schuyler said only around one-third of the 12-17-year olds in her county are currently vaccinated.

"There are a lot of kids out there who still need to be vaccinated and I'm hopeful that parents will get that done this summer, before we head back into the school year," Schulyer said. "That does not include 18-year-olds. We've got about 32% of our 18- and 19-year-olds vaccinated."

She said Chautauqua County has seen 1,468 cases COVID-19 in those aged 0-29, with 16% of total cases under age 19 and 17% age 20-29.

In Niagara County the figures are somewhat higher, but Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said there's a full court press underway to go where young people hang out and persuade them to be vaccinated, even at Niagara Power baseball games.

With large rural sections of the county, he said getting residents vaccinated involves relatively small groups that eventually add up. Stapleton said his department is also using that method to get shots into arms for Niagara University and Niagara County Community college students.

"That's a population that's not getting vaccinated, so we're hoping that this has an impact on that," he said. "So we're making it available to where the students are, to where the people who aren't getting vaccinated traditionally are, and kind of go from there. But the one thing we've got going for is us the vaccine. The second thing we've got going for us is the fact that people understand and that the schools have learning to protect their students."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.