Families lined up outside of Monte Vista Middle School on Monday to get their COVID-19 shots, the latest in a series of public vaccination events in Tracy Unified School District.
This time the district, San Joaquin Public Health Service and Sutter Gould Medical Foundation made it a festive event for the first day of the kids’ 2-week winter break by declaring all children ages 5 to 11 “Vaccine Superheroes,” with capes and masks handed out after they got their shots.
“What we’re saying is that we’re recognizing that kids have been superheroes throughout this pandemic,” said San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park. “They’ve endured a lot through COVID, and now they’re doing their part by getting vaccinated, helping to protect themselves and their families. So we see them as the true heroes in the pandemic and we thought it would be nice to have every kid get a cape when they get their vaccines today.”
It’s the latest in a series of vaccination events in Tracy Unified School District. On Nov. 5, the week that the federal Food and Drug Administration declared the vaccine safe for children ages 5 to 11, the district hosted a vaccination event at North School, where 290 children plus 222 adults and teenagers were vaccinated. A follow-up event occurred 3 weeks later so people could get their second doses or boosters.
Park expected that many to show up this Monday, and brought a supply of 400 superhero capes with the hope of handing them all out.
Rob Pecot, TUSD’s associate superintendent for business services, said at this point the district is not focused on the numbers or percentages of vaccinated students in the district so much as making sure everyone can get the vaccine if they want it.
“What they chose to do, that’s their individual decision. It’s easy access when you’re right down the street or in town as opposed to going to Stockton or setting up an appointment with your medical provider,” Pecot said.
He added that the district is working with Park to coordinate more vaccination events, such as a followup at Monte Vista Middle School when folks are due for their second shots.
“When they’re bigger like this it’s harder to do during the school day, so there’s some coordination that needs to go into it, but definitely we’d like to do them at different school sites so different communities have access to them,” he said, adding that the winter break gave the event a full day to accommodate families.
“This was a nice opportunity. When we do this with this many people, when we do this in 3 weeks, when people come back and get their second vaccine we’re going to have to be creative.”
People could register in advance for the vaccinations, but Chris Rodgers, Director of Operations for Sutter Health, said people could also drop in and sign up at the site and then get the shot.
“As we have supplies we give it to them,” Rodgers said. “If we run out then we only hold enough for people who have appointments. We haven’t had that issue yet. We always have enough vaccines.”
He added that Tracy has seen the biggest turnouts, compared to other vaccination events around the county, though all of Sutter Health’s clinics are seeing an increase in demand for the vaccines.
“It’s probably our most demanded appointment right now at our Sutter base clinics, which are in Tracy, Stockton and Ceres. Most of the calls are for 5 to 11,” he said.
Park said that vaccinations are important now as the county prepares for a wintertime surge, including new cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. She said that no cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in the county, but with more cases being reported nationwide its arrival is imminent.
“I’m sure we already have Omicron in the county. It’s in the state, in the country, so we’re watching our numbers very carefully, because I do expect that once Omicron really sets in there will be a large surge, unfortunately, so we’re really racing to get people vaccinated ahead of that.”
She expects a winter surge to take hold through January and February. COVID-19 cases peaked in the county a year ago this week after rising through November and December.
“We had a bad surge last winter, definitely, and we just got through the Delta surge of the summer. However with that surge we never came really all the way down from that curve, and we didn’t really get our case rate go down to a nice low level, and now we’re starting to go up again.”