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High school students among new eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine

Most local school districts said they have not started discussions about student vaccination against coronavirus yet, but one explained requirements are unlikely.

OREGON, USA — High school students aged 16 to 17 are included in new national eligibility standards for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fernando Zurta is a student at Sam Barlow High School in Gresham. He went to the Oregon Convention Center Monday with his family to get his first shot.

"I thought it was pretty cool that we were getting a vaccine," Zurta said.

He is part of the newly eligible group nationwide of people 16 and older who can get a COVID vaccine appointment.

As some students in Oregon and Washington return to class for in-person part-time learning, KGW reached out to various districts to ask about vaccination plans and discussions among leadership.

RELATED: Portland Public Schools planning for full-time in-person learning in the fall

Beaverton, North Clackamas, West Linn-Wilsonville and Santiam Canyon said they have not had in-depth conversations about student COVID immunizations yet. Much of their recent focus has been placed on safe reentry to classrooms.

Portland Public Schools said it is discussing vaccinations but is not ready to share more yet.

A spokesperson for Tigard-Tualatin School District said it's encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. However, the district explained school systems will likely not require the vaccine, instead deferring to the state, which already requires a list of immunizations in schools.

Lisa Kensel has three children in Portland Public Schools. One is 17 and excited to get a COVID shot.

"We talk about herd immunity, we talk about keeping other people safe...the safety of vaccines," Kensel described of the family conversation. "He's had all his vaccines all his life, this is just another vaccine."

Pfizer's COVID vaccine is currently the only one approved for use with 16 and 17-year-olds in the US. Pfizer's youth trials show it is 100% effective for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has also said he hopes high school students can be vaccinated against COVID by fall, with younger students starting in 2022.

In Oregon, teens over 15 can receive immunizations without a parent's help.

RELATED: Does a parent need to go with a minor to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon?

KGW also asked local districts about potential vaccination events and clinics in the future.

Lake Oswego responded with a statement saying it has helped with other vaccine distribution in the past, and "would welcome that opportunity, if able and necessary."

In the meantime, Fernando Zurta is thankful as one of Oregon's first 16-year-olds to receive new protection from COVID.

"It's pretty important for the future," he said. "Our body will be prepared for it. We won't get as sick and be much better."

RELATED: Portland students launch COVID vaccine appointment finder