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School-based kids COVID-19 vaccine clinic a success

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For several hours Thursday, Talent Elementary School offered a dose of the the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds
Photo by Denise Baratta Talent Middle School student Bodhi Padgett, 11, gets a supporting hand hold from his grandmother Susan Padgett as he gets a COVID-19 vaccination Thursday at Talent Elementary School.
Photo by Denise Baratta Newly vaccinated student Natalie Hernandez, 10, watches as her cousin Micah Bugarin, 5, gets treated with a cotton ball while sitting in the lap of his Aunt Ruth Bejarano after getting a COVID-19 vaccine Thursday at Talent Elementary School.
Photo by Denise Baratta Medical staff give out COVID-19 vaccinations to children at a drive-thru clinic Thursday at Talent Elementary School.

TALENT — Bodhi Padgett hasn’t had a lot of play dates lately.

But the 11-year-old Talent Middle School student can start counting down the days, because he is now among the kids who agreed to roll up their sleeves and receive the coronavirus vaccine, which was approved last week by the CDC for use among 5- to 11-year-olds.

“I’ll be safer if I get the vaccine, because even if I do get sick, it’s not going to be bad, bad,” he said Thursday outside Talent Elementary School, where a COVID-19 vaccine clinic was held. “Maybe a cold or a mild case of the flu.”

Bodhi is one of 900,000 kids who have received their first dose since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved Nov. 2.

“You feel a pinch, and once it pulls out, you get a little bit sore,” Bodhi said. “Honestly, after half of a minute, I wouldn’t even know I got the shot.”

The close to 1 million children who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, the White House announced Wednesday, account for only about 3% of the 28 million 5- to 11-year olds the Biden Administration hopes to protect against COVID-19.

“There’s so many people you see in one day, any one of them could have COVID-19, so you want to make sure to protect yourself,” Bodhi said.

Ashland School District hosted a pediatric coronavirus vaccine clinic in September and October, but that was for students older than 11. The Thursday clinic for 5- to 11-year olds was believed to be the first school-based pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinic since the shot was approved for that age group.

The three-hour event at TES was hosted by La Clinica, a local nonprofit health care organization aiming to help underserved populations. Its services include 17 school-based health centers in the Medford, Phoenix-Talent and Central Point school districts.

Phoenix-Talent School District Superintendent Brent Barry was not available for comment Thursday, but he did provide more details about the clinic in his newsletter, posted on the district’s Facebook page.

Originally, the TES clinic was meant to serve only staff members’ kids, he explained, but officials were informed the offering of vaccinations could be expanded.

“Thank you to La Clinica for helping to provide this opportunity for families who wish to have their child(ren) vaccinated,” Barry wrote.

Rebecca Holmes, the school-based nursing manager for La Clinica, said the nonprofit has about 1,500 COVID-19 doses for 5- to 11-year-olds across three school districts, 400 of them at TES.

She estimated some 200 doses were administered by the end of the TES clinic Thursday. Holmes noted the event’s popular response, since cars had shown up even before it started.

“We’re going, we’re moving,” she said a few minutes after 1 p.m., when the clinic began.

Like adults who get the vaccine, 5- to 11-year-olds will get two doses, spaced several weeks apart, according to Holmes. But contained in the vaccine will be only one-third of the dose adults get — and they will be administered with smaller needles.

Holmes let her staff administer the vaccines, but from what she could see, there was a range of reactions from the kids who got it.

“We’ve had lots of different reactions from totally wonderful … to a little bit more coaxing; parents are having to get in the back seat,” she said. “We do pediatric vaccines all the time in our school-based health centers, so we’re familiar with different techniques to use.”

Holmes had a message for 5- to 11-year-olds and their parents about the coronavirus shot.

“It’s absolutely safe and effective, and any sort of thing you may be worried about, the risks are much greater if you were to get COVID-19 itself,” she said. “This is the time to take action and keep our children safe.”

Susan Padgett had been looking for a vaccine clinic for her grandson, Bodhi, until she got an email from the Phoenix-Talent School District Wednesday informing her of the Nov. 11 event at TES.

“It was a relief,” Padgett said. “I think it’s really important. Everybody in the house is vaccinated except Bodhi, and we’ve put off a lot of playdates because of that. His one thing was, ‘if I get vaccinated, can I have my friends over again?’ [The answer is] ‘yes.’”

Aside from playdates and family dinners, Padgett believes another advantage to Bodhi getting the vaccine is he’ll keep himself and his peers at school safe.

“If he [does] get a breakthrough case, it will not be as severe,” she said.

Nony Bugarin, a special education teacher at TES, was another adult who brought her family to the school to be vaccinated Thursday. Her youngest is a boy, Micah, 5.

“We’re immigrants, so we know the [benefits] of having vaccination as a protection, especially when you don’t have medical [care] right away,” Bugarin said. “We’re supportive of having those antibodies, because we know just having them has made a big difference.”

Bugarin said getting her son the COVID-19 vaccine gives her “peace of mind” for Micah to go to the playground or go to school and be around other children.

Micah was “a little nervous,” before getting his COVID-19 vaccine, according to Bugarin. But when he was given the shot at TES Thursday, he didn’t cry.

“We had side effects on the first shot, so we’re going to see how he does today,” Bugarin said. “Hopefully, he can come back to school. If not, we’ll keep him home, give him some Motrin to make him feel better.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.