With one of three COVID-19 vaccines now available to children ages 12 and up in Santa Clara County, the Palo Alto Unified School District is opening up its first vaccine site for eligible students this Sunday at Palo Alto High School.
Through a partnership with Safeway Pharmacy, the district will host daylong clinics on campus to administer shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Parents will be able to schedule a time slot for their children online ahead of time, with up to 1,000 shots of the vaccine available during each clinic.
Superintendent Don Austin announced the partnership during a board meeting on Tuesday.
"This is a Safeway program and we are the host of the program," Austin said. "And we really appreciate that partnership."
The first clinic will be hosted on Sunday at Palo Alto High School's Peery Family Center gym, said Lana Conaway, assistant superintendent of equity and student affairs. Austin credited Conaway on Tuesday for spearheading the partnership program.
"We solidified our partnership the day after there was an announcement that (kids) 12 and up can get vaccinated," Conaway said in an interview.
Palo Alto Unified previously worked with the supermarket company in February to provide vaccines for its faculty and faculty family members. According to Conaway, the program helped administer 975 vaccines in total, across three clinics, throughout March, April and May.
With a partnership already in place, Conaway said developing a vaccine program for the students was swift and simple.
Each clinic will be staffed by Safeway Pharmacy's nurses to administer the vaccine. School nurses will help with the pre- and post-vaccination process, which includes age verification and monitoring students for 15 minutes after the shot.
District board member Jennifer DiBrienza and members of PTA Council will also be volunteering on Sunday, Conaway said.
By Thursday, May 13, all 1,000 slots for Sunday's clinic had been taken.
Stephanie Compton, a classroom aide at Ohlone Elementary School and a PAUSD parent, signed her son Luke up on the day the program was announced to district families on Tuesday.
Luke, an eighth grader at JLS middle school, is the last person standing in Compton's immediate family to get vaccinated.
"He's excited," Compton said.
Clinics will be held every seven or eight days, Conaway said. The clinic to administer the second dose of the Pfizer's two-shot vaccine will be held three weeks from this Sunday.
Locations may change on the basis of community need. Conaway added that the district will also try to make accommodations for students who want to get vaccinated but can't make the commute.
"We want to make sure there are no barriers for families as well," she said. "So I encourage families to call us if they want the vaccination but they're having some difficulties getting to the location."
With the recent Food and Drug Administration's authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old, Santa Clara County made an announcement on May 12 opening up the vaccine to the same age group. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still in the process of testing their vaccines for younger children, according to several media reports.
For now, the district will administer Pfizer, but Conaway said that that may change based on the other vaccines' availability.
While the district is providing opportunities to get staff and students vaccinated, it will not require students to be vaccinated in order to come back to campus nor will it ask students about their vaccination status.
"We encourage families to do what's best for them," Conaway said, emphasizing that she respects families' desires to not get the vaccine. "My recommendation for all, even for those who are feeling a little leery about the vaccination, is to get vaccinated. That's how we're all going to feel a little more secure moving forward and getting back to normal."
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.