TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Travis County leaders, area school districts and health experts say they’re taking a “school-based approach” to pediatric COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the area Thursday.
This comes after U.S. health officials gave final approval this week to kid-size doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The county says it quickly implemented its distribution plan to reach underserved communities and areas that have been hurt the most by COVID-19, once the final approval was given.
“Parents already have to send their 5 to 11 year old kids to schools, so why not use the school buildings — a place where people and especially our children feel safe and comfortable to get them vaccinated,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown during the announcement Thursday at Newton Collins Elementary.
Staff from Austin Public Health and the University of Texas School of Nursing will help administer shots.
“We have child life specialists we’ll bring in to calm children if needed. We will bring in a spray and numbing agent they can use to help with the pain if needed,” said Nani Maya Mora with UT’s School of Nursing.
Appointment availability for pediatric COVID-19 vaccines is already becoming a problem for some parents across Central Texas. KXAN checked and many appointments are already booked out at several local pharmacies because of the demand.
“Everything I checked out was booked in Austin through the end of November,” said mom Amy Nathan Wright.
Wright’s luck changed when she received an email from Austin ISD to come to a popup clinic at Northeast Early College High School. The clinic is the first in the district to offer shots for children ages 5 to 11. The district told KXAN it targeted the northeast area, because it’s a COVID hot spot.
Austin ISD previously said it plans to host clinics in different areas around the city to ensure the vaccine is allocated equally. School leaders also say they will especially focus on testing and vaccination efforts in the 78748, 78753 and 78758 zip codes, which have high COVID-19 rates.
Alana Bejarano, director of health services at Austin ISD, said Thursday they’re going to use several existing hubs in Austin and add some weekend sites as well.
“We’re going to put them out as far and as broad as we can to make sure everybody has access,” Bejarano said.
She also stated many campuses will be hosting events as soon as AISD’s providers get the vaccines. The district will be releasing a schedule online.
Del Valle ISD
Del Valle ISD announced starting next week, all campuses will begin offering on-campus vaccinations for students ages 5 to 11 years old. So far, the district says they’ve heard “overwhelmingly positive feedback.”
“Our goal with offering on-campus vaccination clinics is to provide easy access for parents to be able to have their child vaccinated in a place where they are comfortable coming every day,” explained Christopher Weddle, executive director of communications for Del Valle ISD.
Weddle also stated it’s been three days since they sent home consent forms to parents, and more than 300 students have already signed up to get the shot. Parents can still sign their child up, up until the day of the vaccine clinic at their child’s campus.
More information is being sent home to parents that will detail every single campus vaccination clinic date over the next week and a half.
Diana Rios-Rodriguez, interim director of health and wellness with Manor ISD, said Thursday the district currently has plans underway to provide the vaccine with the help of local agencies and partners.
Rios-Rodriguez encouraged parents to stay connected with the district for more details.
“Manor ISD realizes that our priorities are to bridge the gap of our underserved scholars and communities, and our ultimate goal is to ensure equitable access to high-quality care and availability of vaccines for all scholars,” Rios-Rodriguez said.