By November 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency-use authorizations to Pfizer-BioNTech for COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 17. But unlike the drive to help school employees get vaccinated in the spring of 2021, the Orange County Department of Education isn’t planning to host clinics at local schools.

OCDE will instead encourage families interested in getting the vaccine to sign up through the Orange County Health Care Agency, pharmacies or their preferred medical providers once the shot is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Some school districts may also choose to host their own clinics.

“While we will continue to assist the OC Health Care Agency with its efforts to share information about voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations, we are not hosting school-based vaccination clinics for students or community members,” Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares said. “For families who choose to get their children vaccinated, we believe the safest manner is through licensed and fully-staffed facilities. Above all, we recognize that families are responsible for making important health care decisions on behalf of their children with guidance from licensed medical professionals.”

In February and March, OCDE collaborated with the OC Health Care Agency and local school districts to establish on-site vaccination clinics for school employees at multiple campuses. More than 20,000 doses were voluntarily administered to educators and support staff as part of a broader effort to reopen school campuses for in-person learning.

With schools now fully open across the county, the department said it will defer to local health officials and medical providers to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children and families. School districts, which operate independently under their elected school boards and superintendents, are advised to work directly with the Orange County Health Care Agency if they wish to host their own clinics.

As of November 2021, the FDA had issued full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 years and older. Pfizer vaccines for children 12 to 15 years old and children ages 5 to 11 have been granted emergency-use authorizations are recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parental consent is required for anyone under 18 to get vaccinated.