As Covid-19 vaccines became available to educators and school staff, the Freeport School District worked with local hospitals to set up appointments for those working at all seven of the district’s schools.
But when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this month that those 16 and older now qualified for the vaccines, it was Mt. Sinai South Nassau that stepped up, partnering with the district to distribute more than 700 vaccines to Freeport High School students through two vaccination events, last Saturday and again on Wednesday.
“We are grateful to Mt. Sinai for responding quickly to our needs and protecting our students,” Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said.
“This initiative is part of Mount Sinai South Nassau’s commitment to help getting students and teachers vaccinated,” added Dr. Adhi Sharma, MSSN’s chief medical officer. “We are trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine.”
Maria Jordan-Awalom, who serves on the district’s Board of Education, said her family was excited to hear about the partnership. Her son, Julian, 16, along with 432 other students, signed up for the vaccination event on Saturday, at MSSN’s vaccination pod in Rockville Centre.
Julian, who plays lacrosse for the Red Devils, has to take Covid-19 tests weekly as a part of the county’s new athletics protocols, so he saw getting the vaccine as just another step to return things to normal. Jordan-Awalom said that she was proud of her son’s decision, as it helps not only protect him, but also others.
“If you sit down to talk with your kids, you’ll see that they also want things to return to some kind of normal,” she explained. “Everyone just wants to get back to how it was before the pandemic happened.”
She added that because the vaccines were being distributed through a partnership between the school district and a local hospital, parents felt more at ease to trust in the process and sign up their children for the vaccinations.
Jordan-Awalom said that trust in the vaccine is critical, as she also volunteers to work with local elected officials to help advocate for the vaccine and connect with hard-to-reach members of communities of color to ensure equity in vaccine distribution efforts. Through the office of State Sen. John Brooks, Awalom-Jordan has helped sign up Spanish-speaking residents and those who lack Internet access for inoculation appointments.
With more than 700 high school students having received their first dose, Kuncham said he was also hopeful for an eventual return to normal, but he was also wary, because sudden upticks and regional variants of the virus continue to appear throughout the world.
As of Monday, some 316 students, teachers and staff members in the school district had tested positive for Covid-19, according to the State Department of Health. The district now also keeps a public tab on the number of reported cases throughout the month, which residents can review on the district’s website at freeportschools.org.
“As far as I’m concerned, the pandemic isn’t over yet,” Kuncham said. “We need to remain vigilant, and we have the responsibility to get ourselves vaccinated whenever we are eligible to.”
District officials hope to continue working with MSSN to vaccinate more students once they are eligible.
Sharma added that through the vaccination pod in Rockville Centre and the new “Vaxmobile,” which allows for mobile distribution of the vaccines throughout the Town of Hempstead, MSSN has helped provide more than 32,000 vaccines to the South Shore as of April 27.
“Getting shots in the arms is the way back to some sense of normalcy,” Sharma said.