School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: COVID-19 is now Vaccine-Preventable!

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is meeting over the next few days to consider the recommendations for all children ages 5 – 11 to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA has looked at this very carefully and now the CDC’s ACIP COVID-19 Vaccines Workgroup members are reviewing all of the available data, including Pfizer’s clinical trial study data. The ACIP committee members presented their findings as well as heard public comments. Dr. Sara Oliver, Lead for the COVID-19 Vaccines ACIP Work Group, shared the BEST quote of the day “COVID-19 is now vaccine preventable.”

Joan Edelstein, DrPH, MSN, RN, PHN ,a seasoned school nurse and faculty member at Sacramento State University, provided public comment about the role of school nurses in COVID vaccines for our youngest students. Thank you Joan for sharing your excellent public comments with my readers!

I’m Joan Edelstein, professor of nursing and faculty in the School Nurse Credential Program at California State University Sacramento.

As a pediatric nurse for over half a century, I have seen the devastating long term effects of infectious diseases. I have personally cared for infants and children with rubella syndrome, polio, tuberculosis, and inclusion body encephalitis from measles. We all know people who have had months of painful shingles due to having had chicken pox. I have several friends who had polio and who now suffer the effects of post polio syndrome decades later.

As we try to address highly unlikely long term effects of a clearly safe COVID vaccine, we do not yet know the long term damage of having COVID in childhood. We do know that children suffer from long COVID, as has been well demonstrated by Long COVID Kids in the UK. We do know that COVID causes organ damage that may lead to long term health problems. We do know organ damage can affect children with COVID as reflected in multisystem inflammatory syndrome. We don’t know if organ damage will affect them weeks, months, years, or decades after having been infected with COVID-19. We should not wait to find out and ask that you provide emergency use authorization for this clearly safe and effective vaccine now for children ages 5-11.

As a credentialed school nurse, I’d like also to make a statement about the need for the CDC to support school nurses in vaccination administration that will impact the success of pediatric vaccine programs. Our pediatric public health population is right here in our schools, the ideal place to implement primary prevention measures, such as vaccines. School nurses are responsible for the entire school health program and are the health experts in this non-health care setting.

Nonetheless, school nurses have been disregarded. We were specifically excluded in planning for safe schools in my own state, in spite of repeated requests to be at the table. In order to advocate for students and have effective mitigation programs and successful vaccine programs, school nurses nationwide are the public health experts in partnering for successful school located vaccine clinics and educating families, staff and the community on the importance of vaccines.

The CDC should include in all school related recommendations that school nurses be actively included in assessment, planning, policy, program development, implementation, and evaluation of both vaccine programs and mitigation efforts. Funding should be targeted to school nurse positions, as they now have twice the work, uncompensated in time or money, for already inadequate pay. Rather than eliminating or ignoring school nurse positions in districts, the CDC should take the lead in recognizing the importance of including school nurses in all recommendations and enjoin state, county, and city health departments to partner with school nurses at the district and school levels to carry out this critical task of getting our pediatric public health population vaccinated.

Thank you for the time. 

Bio: Joan Edelstein, DrPH, MSN, RN, PHN is a professor of nursing
with a doctorate in public health who has taught maternal/child
and community health nursing for 40 years. She is currently
faculty in the School Nurse Credential Program at Sacramento
State University, where she teaches policy and provides
expertise on immunizations for school nurses. As a member of
Vaccinate California, a grassroots organization that sponsored
school immunization legislation, ultimately eliminating the
personal belief exemption and cracking down on bogus medical
exemptions, she is a resource for school nurses across the
state. She is also an active member of Nurses Who Vaccinate.
Supported by the UCSF School of Nursing, Joan developed a
COVID Immunization Training for Nurses with an emphasis on
addressing vaccine hesitancy In her spare time, Joan addresses
misinformation on social media, including FB and NextDoor.


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