Kelly toasts Topeka High School’s hosting of COVID-19 vaccination clinic

Event follows CDC’s approval of shots for people 12 and up

By: - May 17, 2021 11:09 am
Gov. Laura Kelly and Topeka school district superintendent Tiffany Anderson chat Monday with Laura Vandruff, 15, as she receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Topeka High School. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Gov. Laura Kelly and Topeka school district superintendent Tiffany Anderson chat Monday with Laura Vandruff, 15, as she receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Topeka High School. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Fifteen-year-old freshman Laura Vandruff didn’t let a broken bone stand in the way Monday of getting a vaccination for COVID-19.

“I forced my parents to let me come,” she said.

Vandruff, escorted by her mother Sharla, who temporarily took charge of Laura’s crutches, participated in the vaccination clinic at Topeka High School. Indeed, she said, the impetus was her daughter’s desire to join millions of Americans who have been inoculated.

It followed action by federal and state health officials last week to encourage individuals 12 years or older to get a vaccination to protect against spread of the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared use of vaccine for people 12 to 16 years of age. Based on previous CDC guidance, individuals 16 and older have had access to vaccinations for several months.

A participant looks away at the moment a COVID-19 vaccination needle makes contact Monday during a temporary clinic at Topeka High School. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector0
A volunteer recipient of a COVID-19 vaccination looks away at the moment a needle makes contact Monday at a temporary clinic set up at Topeka High School aimed at vaccinating more of the city’s youth. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Gov. Laura Kelly, who is seeking re-election in 2022, marked expansion of the vaccination program by touring the high school’s temporary clinic spread across the gymnasium’s floor.

A line stretched beyond exit doors of the central Topeka school, with some parents joining their children to get a free shot.

“I’m glad to see so many parents here with their kids reinforcing the importance of getting this vaccination,” Kelly said. “We know from the studies that have been done and just practical realities of what’s happened that the vaccines are very, very safe.”

She said the process of educating Kansans about efficacy of the vaccinations for COVID-19 would continue as the state worked to broaden the percentage of residents who have received the necessary shot or shots. About 40% of Kansans have received a vaccination and that number is expected to climb as more people share with family, friends and community members their experiences, the governor said.

“The others who have not, who are just hesitant because they’re afraid of it, will see there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Kelly said. “So, when they’re ready, we’re ready.”

Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of Topeka public schools, said the district scheduled vaccination clinics Monday and Tuesday at Topeka High School, Highland Park High School and Topeka West High School. Vaccinations also will be available at the district’s Saturday food pantry during the summer, she said.

“We’re excited. Really trying to use every opportunity to be kind of the center of the community,” Anderson said.

She expected the high school clinics would eventually prompt vaccination of more than 1,000 students in Topeka public schools.

The district provided translators at Topeka High School to speak with parents and students who didn’t speak English as their first language, she said. Many of these families have shared their confusion about the vaccination process, she said.

“They’ve been more hesitant than others,” Anderson said. “All of our newcomer students, at least a majority of them — the ones that don’t any English, the family doesn’t speak English — they all came today.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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