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6th-Grader a Winner in Vaccination Video Contest

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6th-Grader a Winner in Vaccination Video Contest
Posted on 12/03/2021
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The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in partnership with the Maine Department of Education (DOE), this week announced the winners of a video competition for Maine children to encourage COVID-19 vaccination.

Natalie Waters, a sixth-grader at Lincoln Middle School, won third place in the Maine Kids COVID-19 Vaccination Video Contest. Her 30-second video encouraging other kids to get vaccinated earned her school a $10,000 prize.

“We are super proud of Natalie!” said Lincoln Principal Robyn Bailey. “She is described by many, myself included, as an eager, enthusiastic, kind, genuine person.”

Bailey added: “Natalie's win has been a wonderful spirit booster as it not only reminds everyone about the importance of getting vaccinated, but it also reminds us all that student voices make messaging even more magical!”

Students at The New School, a private high school in Kennebunk, took first place; and a homeschooled eighth-grader from Columbia, Maine, took second place. View all three winning videos HERE.

Bailey said Natalie and other Lincoln students will play a key role in deciding how the $10,000 award should be spent. The state says schools can use the winnings to supplement school meals with healthy treats; purchase playground, classroom, gym, sports, or music equipment; enhance a special school activity; or support a school field trip for all students. The prize winnings are supported by the Federally funded Coronavirus Relief Fund at Maine DHHS.

“We are just beginning to meet with our student advisory groups and Natalie happens to be one,” Bailey said. “It is my hope that the kids can brainstorm ways in which they see the money being best utilized in our school. Given the amount of money, there is the potential to identify multiple ways to use the money to make really cool things happen.”

DHHS and DOE announced the contest on November 3, inviting Maine youth ages 5 to 17 to submit 30-second videos that they believed would encourage other children, along with their parents, to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Congratulations to the winners of our Maine Kids COVID-19 Vaccination Video Contest, who displayed creativity, conviction, and courage in their submissions,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. “We’re grateful to every Maine child and teenager who submitted an entry – they are all public health champions. Thanks to people like them, Maine is quickly getting enough students vaccinated to begin returning to more normal ways of learning and having fun.” 

More than 50 submissions were reviewed, without identifying information, by a committee comprised of DHHS, CDC and DOE staff members. The selection criteria included originality and clarity of the message, consistency with public health information on youth vaccination, and potential to reach unvaccinated groups, among others. Children could produce the video submissions on their own or as part of a school activity. Participation was limited to Maine residents. 

The video competition is part of Maine DHHS and Maine CDC’s broader plan to support vaccination of children ages 5 to 11. Nearly 29 percent of Maine children ages 5 to 11 have received at least a first dose of vaccine, nearly double the national average of 14.7 percent and ranking Maine third in the nation, according to the U.S. CDC. In November, almost 1,000 Portland Public Schools students aged 5-11 received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at school clinics held in partnership with Northern Light Health. Their second doses are scheduled for December.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is available for children 5 to 11 years old in a two-dose series, and is administered in a lower dose than the vaccine for adolescents and adults. COVID-19 vaccines are available at no charge at sites across the state. For information on getting a vaccine, please visit Maine.gov/covid19/vaccines or call the Community Vaccination Line at 1-888-445-4111.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.