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Greenville school board may prohibit on-campus vaccine clinics without full FDA approval

Greenville County School Administrative Center on July 29, 2021

The board of trustees for Greenville County Schools gave initial approval to prohibiting the use of schools or properties for COVID-19 vaccine clinics, unless those vaccines have received full FDA approval. Staff/Stephanie Mirah

GREENVILLE — The board of trustees for Greenville County Schools gave preliminary approval to prohibiting the use of its schools or properties for COVID-19 vaccine clinics, unless those vaccines have received full FDA approval.

The action item will be voted on formally during the board's regular meeting on Nov. 16.

During its Nov. 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, the board voted 8-0 with one abstention on an action item to amend the policy on how the district allows its buildings and properties to be used by the community. Three other board members were not present to vote.

The new policy would add a line that schools and properties will not be permitted to be used for "the administration of any vaccine that has received emergency-use authorization and not full approval by the Food and Drug Administration."

Trustees Sarah Dulin and Angie Mosley co-presented the motion and pointed out that COVID-19 vaccines are available throughout the county at many locations. They said it is a parent's right to make medical decisions for their own students.

"The COVID-19 vaccine continues to be a very polarizing topic within our community and allowing Prisma or other medical organizations to use our properties for administering a controversial EUA [emergency use authorization] vaccine only serves to further erode public trust, particularly the trust of GCS parents," Mosley and Dulin wrote as the rationale for the change. "Given the current 'climate,' we believe that it’s best to eliminate this practice so that we don’t create unnecessary controversy."

Mosley said that it was best to change the policy so, "we don't create the impression that we are forcing one position over another."

Superintendent Burke Royster said the administration would support the change as proposed.

On Oct. 29, the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use for children ages 5 to 11 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended vaccines for children in the same age group. President Joe Biden stated in a Nov. 3 speech that his administration has "also been working with governors, mayors and local school leaders to bring vaccines to schools."

Since the policy change directly relates to vaccines, it will not alter the partnership the district has with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and MAKO Medical Laboratories to provide free COVID-19 testing on some school properties.

Once a vaccine moves out of the emergency-use stage, the board policy amendment would no longer apply.

Four visitors addressed the board at the beginning of the meeting, all concerned about the implementation of vaccine clinics in Greenville schools. 

The board covered a lot of ground at the meeting, discussing its financial audit through June 30, 2021, employee mental health support, an update on the school's diversity, equity and inclusion team, and a facilities report, among other topics.

If amended, the new board policy would read: "The board will not permit the use of schools and properties for a) private social functions, except as permitted by Board Policy MBC, b) regular commercial ventures, or c) regular business for profit, or d) the administration of any vaccine that has received emergency use authorization and not full approval by the Food and Drug Administration." 

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Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah

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