Pennsylvania to offer COVID-19 testing, vaccines for schools

School districts will have to opt in, and parents must give consent.
ENOLA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania will offer voluntary COVID-19 testing in all K-12 schools, state health and education officials announced Monday.

School districts will have to opt-in, and parents must give consent.

For participating school districts, the weekly tests will be conducted in classrooms. Students' nasal swabs will be pooled and run as a single test to identify the presence of COVID-19 in a school.

SEE ALSO: 3rd dose of COVID vaccine authorized for some. Here's what you need to know about boosters for all

Boston-based Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks, which operates statewide programs in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, North Carolina and other states, was awarded an $87 million contract to run Pennsylvania's program for the upcoming school year.

"Early detection like this is exactly what we need to keep students in classrooms, and COVID out," Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said at a news conference.

Separately, Beam also ordered vaccine providers to coordinate vaccine clinics at schools and universities that request them.

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Pennsylvania school districts will have to opt in, and parents must give consent.

When the announcement came Monday, Ardmore parent Rich Harrison said he was immediately on board.

"I think it's crazy we're even having this discussion. It's a pandemic. Anything that we can do to keep kids safe we should," said Harrison of Bala Cynwyd.

But the announcement didn't stop with COVID testing. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is making vaccines available at all schools and higher education as well.

"If something was coming and it was going to hurt you or your family, you would do everything you could to protect them. I don't see why this is different," said Harrison.

"I encourage all our schools to coordinate COVID-19 vaccination clinics for their communities as soon as possible. I encourage all K-12 schools to participle in testing programs as well," said Pennsylvania Education Secretary Noe Ortega.

Meanwhile, booster shots for the immunocompromised is ramping up.

SEE ALSO: US to recommend COVID vaccine booster shots at 8 months: AP sources

Adam Hyman says he got a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine at his local CVS.

"It's such crazy times right now. I don't want to put myself at more risk than I have to. And if this is available, why not do it? I just have a sore arm, no flu effects or anything like that. I got it and I feel fine, thank goodness," said Hyman.

U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, according to Associated Press sources.

An announcement was expected as soon as this week, with doses beginning to be administered widely once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves vaccines. That action is expected for the Pfizer shot in the coming weeks.


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