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High School Vaccination Clinics Reaching Out To People In Baltimore County's COVID Hot Spots

Mary Beckenholdt and Betty Sneed worked the Overlea High School COVID clinic. Credit: John Lee
Mary Beckenholdt and Betty Sneed worked the Overlea High School COVID clinic. Credit: John Lee

The Baltimore County Public Schools’ ongoing effort to get eligible students vaccinated for COVID-19 is playing out in clinics held in high schools in areas with a high risk of COVID transmission.

Those who are showing up for those clinics can be counted by the dozen rather than hundreds.This comes as the school system reported nearly 800 people were quarantined the first week of classes because they came in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID.

Fifty people were vaccinated for COVID at a 3-hour clinic held recently in Overlea High School’s auditorium, including Jonathan Porter who is in 11th grade.

“Just why not, you know,” he asked. “It’s safer I guess.”

Jonathan was brought to the clinic by his father, Steven Porter, who was not getting vaccinated but said he was ok with his son’s decision.

“His choice,” Porter said. “My choice is not to get it.”

Baltimore County Fire Department Captain Ron Halley was running the show at the Overlea High clinic.

“I keep telling them if a dog walks too slowly past the site I’m going to stick a needle in his arm and give him a vaccine.”

Point being, you don’t have to be a student to get a vaccine at a high school clinic.

Halley said, “We’re getting a fair amount of families that are coming in. Sometimes you get an entire family of four that comes in and that’s really, really neat to see, to see that, come and watch the whole family go through it together and get protected together.”

Mary Beckenholdt was screening the people in the lobby outside the auditorium

“We’re just so grateful that they’re coming in,” Beckendholldt said. “That helps everybody.”

Long gone are the days thousands of people lined up for vaccines.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced the high school vax clinic program on August 6. Since then, 469 people have been vaccinated at them, not counting a clinic that was held Monday night. The county holds two clinics a week. The number of people getting vaccinated ranges from 113 at the first clinic on August 9 at New Town High School in Owings Mills to 28 two weeks later at Loch Raven High in Towson.

Doctor Gregory Branch, Baltimore County’s health officer, said it’s difficult now to convince people to get the vaccine.

“But we continue on,” Branch said. “We continue to do that because it’s extraordinarily important and it’s the key to being able to stop this pandemic.”

Baltimore County Public Schools estimates about 50% of its eligible students 12 and older have been vaccinated against Covid.

Captain Halley, with the fire department, said each week they review a map from the health department.

“We call it the heat map, that shows us where the larger concentration of the COVID positive cases are,” Halley said. “And we use that to say ok, let’s outreach to this area.”

In the Overlea High auditorium, Dorrie Dendy had already had her second shot and was waiting 15 minutes before she was cleared to leave. Dendy said she was initially hesitant to get the COVID vaccine.

“But I watched the news every day and I kept following everything they were saying about the vaccine, so when I discovered it is like measles, mumps or other vaccinations we had to get, I felt a little safer.”

Dendy said she was getting vaccinated because she cares for her granddaughter and great niece

“I definitely can’t afford to get sick and I didn’t want to be around children, you know, younger children, who could get sick.”

Baltimore County’s next high school clinic is Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Milford Mill Academy on Washington Avenue in Windsor Mill.

Baltimore County Health Department Spokeswoman Elyn Garrett-Jones said a student under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult. It does not have to be a parent.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2