As soon as the federal Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children, Tracy Unified School District was ready to set up free vaccinations for kids at a local school site.
On Tuesday Zachary Boswell, TUSD’s director of curriculum, assessment and accountability and the district’s lead administrator on COVID-19 compliance issues, reported that about 300 children ages 5 to 11, plus 150 adults and teenagers, received their shots at a vaccination clinic held Friday at North School on Holly Drive.
The FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5 to 11 on Oct. 29 after confirming that the immune system responses from children in that age group were comparable to those in the 16 to 25 age group. The FDA’s review indicated that the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in the younger age group.
Boswell said the school district set up the clinic along with the San Joaquin County Public Health Services and Sutter Health. County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park took the lead in finding places where the health department could administer the vaccine.
“Dr. Park had reached out and asked different districts, and our superintendent, Dr. (Brian) Stephens, said that we’d be happy to partner,” Boswell said.
“We know that we have families that are interested in this, but maybe don’t have a relationship with a physician. Maybe they don’t know about the other resources, or maybe this is the most convenient because this is a neighborhood school.”
He added that North School Principal Jose Jimenez made sure the campus could accommodate the clinic and helped get the word out to families.
“It was something we wanted to be able to do for our families that wanted to do this, particularly at an elementary school. North was very willing to do that,” Boswell said.
He added that a second clinic is scheduled for Nov. 29 so that those children who got their first shot on Friday can receive the full vaccination.
Other vaccines, including the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, were also available for older kids and adults who were eligible to receive first, second, or booster shots, so it turned out to be a busy day-long event.
“This one we did 10 to 5. We had so much traffic after school that we’re talking through the possibility that we may go later,” he said on Wednesday. He added that a second clinic is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 20 at Monte Vista Middle School, with a second round on Jan. 10.
“That was just discussed yesterday (Tuesday), and they’re still checking to see if they have people that can staff that.”
He also took the opportunity in Tuesday’s presentation to the board to do some rumor control, considering that there is still mistrust is some circles regarding the vaccines and how they’re administered.
“There was somebody who had sent a message out saying that TUSD was vaccinating students without their parents’ permission. That was certainly not the case. We would never do that,” Boswell told the board. “If anyone has reached out to you or asked anything about that, everybody there, all of the nurses and workers, everybody had to have the parents sign the consent form all the way up to 17 years old.”
Boswell added on Wednesday that the district intends to comply with state mandates, including an order from last month when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all public and private school students must be vaccinated by July 2022 if the FDA grants full approval for use of vaccines in those age groups.
“The way I understand it, and the way that we interpret it, is that his office has said as soon as they are fully cleared by the FDA – not under emergency clearance, but fully cleared by the FDA – once that takes place the following semester students at schools will have to vaccinated with whatever has been approved,” he said.
It means that the rule will most likely take effect at the start of the 2022-23 school year, assuming the vaccines are fully approved for children before the end of the 2021-22 school year.
He added that teachers and other staff members would be under the same mandate as students. Currently teachers and staff must either be vaccinated or tested every week if they have not been confirmed as fully vaccinated.
“At whatever point students are mandated to be vaccinated, staff would also be mandated to be vaccinated without a testing option,” he said. “He said in that statement there will be some exemptions, but that’s as clear as he got.”
The district will continue to provide tests, and has a drive-up testing clinic, run by Heal 360, at Tracy Independent Charter School at 1904 N. Corral Hollow Road, next to the district office.
It’s a no-cost clinic, open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Boswell said that teachers and staff who are not confirmed as fully vaccinated can go there for testing, as can athletes who may not be able to comply with mask requirements during practice and competition. It is available to the public as well.
• Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com, or call 209-830-4227.