Santa Clara County launched its first of many on-campus vaccination clinics for children ages 5-11 on Thursday at Katherine R. Smith Elementary School in San Jose.
County officials said dozens of school clinics will open within the next few weeks, the first few of which will open in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
"We know the COVID vaccines are safe and effective for kids ages 5 and older, and we want to make it as easy as possible for kids to get vaccinated," County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. "These clinics provide better accessibility for many working parents and guardians and eliminates the need for them to take additional time off work."
It is part of the county's larger effort to get 75 percent of its 167,000 children ages 5-11 vaccinated by January 2022.
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"We cannot forget that there are children now in the second grade who have never experienced a normal school year since the pandemic started," county Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. "The pediatric vaccination has the power to change all of that."
Communities with high ratios of COVID-19 transmission and low community vaccination rates were prioritized and determined through Census tract data.
Before mobile clinics come to campuses, parents will be given packets of information detailing what to expect and required forms for vaccination. A parent or legal guardian must provide consent for a child to be vaccinated.
The mobile clinics, operated by the county Public Health Department's Mobile Vaccination Unit, will return to campuses three weeks after the initial shot to fully inoculate students with their second dose.
Mary Ann Dewan, Superintendent of Schools in Santa Clara County, said the opening of school vaccination sites will allow students to participate in more activities and events.
"Getting vaccinated helps keep students in in-person school, reducing the risk that they will have to stay at home away from school after exposure to someone with COVID-19," Dewan said.
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The program is an extension of on-campus vaccination clinics for students 12 years and older. Since that age group became eligible for the vaccine in May, the county operated vaccine clinics on 82 school campuses.
There will be roughly 80 more school clinics set up, half of which are already scheduled to begin vaccinations, County Vaccine Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said.
On-campus vaccination sites will offer vaccines to students and their families of the respective school. The county will also host "magnet" vaccination sites aimed to serve youth and families in surrounding communities.
The campuses with clinics on campus will not be made public in an effort to ensure shots are reserved for students and families of that respective school. Schools should notify parents if and when a clinic is coming to campus, and parents can reach out to their child's respective school to learn more.
The on-campus clinics will operate after school hours and will be decorated to make the experience more fun for the young children.
"You'll see that (the team) is all dressed up in all types of all types of costumes … as carrots and bananas, and strawberries and all kinds of fun things for the kids," Fenstersheib said. "They will be showing some movies and some kid-friendly playthings to do so that the kids will be hopefully not so worried or scared about getting their shot today."
Parents interested in getting their children inoculated can get vaccinations through their health care providers, at community clinics, pharmacies or at county vaccination sites. Information about vaccine appointments and drop-in locations can be found at www.sccfreevax.org.