SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A COVID-19 conference for children took place at Springfield Technical Community College Friday.
The kids only COVID-19 awareness, prevention and vaccination conference was for children in Springfield and surrounding towns. The conference was to educate children on COVID-19 from health and science professionals before the start of the school year.
“We have to make sure to educate our younger population to stay safe. Especially without them not being able to be vaccinated at this time,” said STCC Director of Community Engagement Lidya Early.
Because children 11 and younger can’t get the vaccine, the conference taught children how to prevent the spread of germs effectively. The CDC says although fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, get sick from COVID-19 and spread COVID-19 to others.
“We felt the need to be able to make sure that kids went back to school with a sense of purpose, a sense of excitement and of course to get away the anxiety and jitters of COVID-19 and going back into the classroom,” said Renee Stewart Bates, founder of Extreme Science Inc. Her own child, who helped start the program, got COVID-19 from a classmate last year, so Renee wanted to make sure other children knew how to protect themselves.
The 81 children in attendance received COVID-19 supplies, performed hands-on activities about germs, learned COVID-19 spread prevention and participated in a panel.
“I just hope that people stay safe, like grandmas and grandpas all around because I don’t want a lot of people getting sick from that and possibly dying,” said Nazyir McFarlane.
Children were able to take home goodie bags with a science experiment inside so they can continue their germ prevention education. Participants also took home COVID-19 supplies from the Black COVID-19 coalition, which helped sponsor the event.
“My goal is hopefully to make sure the kids go back with a sense of understanding and awareness and prevention,” said Bates.
Right now, 61 percent of children ages 12 to 15 have at least one dose of the vaccine in Massachusetts, compared to just 40 percent nationally. Hampden County though is tied with Bristol County with the lowest vaccination rates for children 12 to 15, barely topping national percentage at only 42 percent.