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COVID-19

To ensure equity, Travis County is bringing kids' COVID vaccines to school campuses in the Eastern Crescent

Two small children with masks on arrive to school.
Jordan Vonderhaar
/
KUT
To make the pediatric vaccine rollout easy on parents in underserved communities, Travis County and local agencies are working with school districts to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds on school campuses.

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To ensure parents in underserved communities have access to pediatric COVID-19 vaccines for their kids, Travis County is working with local school districts to bring the vaccines to elementary and middle schools in Eastern Travis County.

The county is partnering with health care providers to bring the vaccines to campuses in Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Manor ISD, Elgin ISD and Pflugerville ISD. The shots will become available for students starting next week.

“Our hope is that by doing this school-based approach, parents won’t have to go out of their way, or deal with the stress of finding an online appointment or trying to figure out which private provider might do this and where they are located,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said during a press conference Thursday. “And our children would get these vaccines as quickly as possible in the schools where they go.”

Children ages 5 through 11 became eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended children in that age group get a low dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s shot. The Texas Department of State Health Services has asked the CDC to distribute more than 1 million of these doses throughout the state over the next week.

In Travis County, those doses are going to a number of doctor’s offices, the local health department, pharmacies and other providers. The Travis County Vaccine Collaborative will receive an initial allotment of 5,000 doses through Seton Medical Center, Brown said, which will be used to vaccinate kids at schools. Other providers, like the UT School of Nursing, are also contributing vaccines to this school-based initiative, and more doses will be brought in as the rollout continues.
“The Biden administration has assured us there’s going to be plenty of supply here,” Brown said. “So, really the challenge is just for parents to find a place of the many places available to get it as soon as possible.”

Parents need to sign a consent form in order for their children to get vaccinated. Some schools have already sent forms home with students.

Del Valle ISD will begin hosting vaccine clinics at its elementary and middle schools Monday. The first-dose clinics will run for about a week and a half. Christopher Weddle, executive director of communications for DVISD, said the district has had overwhelmingly positive feedback to the initiative. In the three days since the district sent consent forms home to parents, it has had more than 300 sign up.

“If parents still want to sign up, they can right up to the date of the vaccine clinic at their campus,” Weddle said.

Austin ISD will offer pediatric vaccines next week at pop-up clinics already in place. It plans to expand to offer weekend locations and vaccination opportunities at food distributions.

“We’re going to put them out as far and as broad as we can to make sure everybody has access,” said Alana Bejarano, AISD’s director of health services.

The district will post its schedule on the school district website once it receives the doses, Bejarano said.

Manor ISD will be hosting clinics starting Nov. 15 at eight elementary campuses and two middle school campuses, said Diana Rios-Rodriguez, interim director of health and wellness for the district.

“We’ll be providing multiple opportunities to get COVID-19 vaccines with the support and help of local agencies and partners,” Rios-Rodriguez said. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure equitable access to high-quality care and availability of vaccines for all scholars.”

The vaccines for children 5 through 11 come in a smaller dose than those for older age groups. They are also administered with a smaller needle. To be fully vaccinated, children need two doses, three weeks apart.

In the vaccine trials among this age group, vaccination was almost 91% effective in preventing COVID-19, according to the CDC. Side effects were mild, the most common one being a sore arm.

Local health officials are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible. Dr. Meena Iyer, chief medical officer at Dell Children’s Medical Center, said although fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 than adults, they can still contract the virus, get sick from it and spread it to others. She said Dell Children’s has treated 189 children for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Iyer assures there were “no shortcuts” in the creation of this vaccine.

“Thousands of children were involved in the clinical trials, and the data shows the vaccine to be remarkably safe and effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, hospitalization and death,” she said.

Correction: The original version of this story omitted the last
name of Travis County Judge Andy Brown.

Got a tip? Email Marisa Charpentier at mcharpentier@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.

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