(Update: Adding video, comments)
One critic says vaccine is 'sterilization'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Early Thursday morning, a group of about 50 protesters gathered outside Bend Senior High School to voice their concerns at the first of several COVID-19 vaccination clinics being held at high schools around Central Oregon. But nearly 200 students received the shots anyway, officials said.
Starting Thursday, youth 16 and older, which is considered one of the fastest-growing COVID-19 positive age groups in the state, will be able to receive their vaccine for free.
Bend-La Pine Schools Director of Safety and Communication Julianne Repman says the vaccine is an optional service, similar to their lunch program, sports and clubs.
Nearly 4,000 students are eligible to take part in the clinics.
Bend High sophomore Sophie Haney says she saw the protesters before getting her first shot.
"When I was driving to school this morning I saw probably nine people holding signs saying that the vaccines had aborted fetus cells in them or that we're not test rabbits," Haney said.
Haney's friend, Camille Lentz, also saw the protesters and their signs.
"Some of them were like little rhymes that said 'Don't get poked," Lentz said. "Some of them just said, 'No.'"
Parents have emailed the Bend-La Pine School Board, voicing their concerns over the vaccine -- some in anger.
Many have called it an experimental drug because it has not been FDA-approved, and is operating under emergency use authorization.
One parent who would not go on camera told us, "We have thousands of people who understand what is going on within Central Oregon and beyond... it is sterilization. "
But according to fact-checking efforts by The Associated Press, there is no evidence to support such claim.
By Thursday afternoon, about 75 students had received their first dose of the vaccine, according to Mosaic Medical Pediatric Medical Director Ellie Millan.
"We will probably will double that by the end of the day, just given the nature of before-school and after-school access times," she said. And the school district confirmed nearly 200 vaccinations were done by day's end.
Millan says they still plan to hold these clinics for the next 4-5 weeks at high schools throughout Central Oregon.
"We're sort of mirroring what the county has been doing at the fairgrounds by holding large-scale vaccine clinics, which really opens up access for the community," she said.
Each high school will host two clinics before the end of the school year, allowing students who choose to participate to be fully vaccinated before the summer:
Bend Senior High School: April 29 and May 20
La Pine High School: May 6 and May 27
Mountain View High School: May 4 and May 25
Crook County High School: May 4 and May 25
Summit High School: May 6 and May 27
Redmond High School: May 7 and May 26
Ridgeview High School: May 11 and June 1
Sisters High School: May 13 and June 3
Madras High School: Completed in April