Fifth-grader Kazel Oatey gets his first Pfizer shot at Gault Elementary.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
K-12 Education

‘So much hope, so much participation’: County parents lining up young ones for COVID-19 shots

Since the launch of COVID-19 vaccination clinics in schools across the county last week through the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, 2,858 students ages 5 to 11 have been vaccinated and more than 1,000 are scheduled to receive vaccines in the next few weeks.

Jamie Sanyal, a parent of three children in the Santa Cruz City Schools District said her family is ready to “breathe one big sigh of relief” after her 6- and 8-year-olds get their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this weekend.

“My husband is extremely high risk, so when this all started, we were in actual lockdown,” she said. “Our day-to-day life was very much affected by this and I feel like this is gonna really help us come back to more of a sense of normalcy.”

Cooper, the 8-year-old, told his mother he’s both terrified and excited about getting the shot, but said his friends told him, “It doesn’t hurt, it’s like a big pinch.”

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education has been working with Inspire Diagnostics, a health service provider, since the start of the school year for school-based COVID-19 testing and, now, vaccination clinics throughout the county. Nick Ibarra, spokesperson for the office, said 2,858 students ages 5 to 11 have been vaccinated at these clinics, and more than 1,000 students are scheduled in the next few weeks.

Corrine Hyland, a spokesperson for the county, said vaccine administration data for the 5-11 age group countywide is not yet available, but will be included on the county’s dashboard in the next couple of days. As of Nov. 8, 58.7% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 51% of 16- to 19-year-olds have been vaccinated in the county.

Santa Cruz City Schools spokesperson Sam Rolens said the clinics are popular and appointments are filling up fast.

“Every time we’re out there talking to parents, we’re hearing so much hope associated with this sort of latest round in the battle against COVID-19,” he said. “It’s been really nice to see so much participation, so much gratitude, and so many families excited to have the ability to keep their kids safe”

Rolens’ daughter received her COVID-19 vaccination on the first clinic day.

“Personally, I’m celebrating the fact that because this is a more mild dose, between my daughter and her friend, they haven’t really seen any side effects,” he said.

Rolens said vaccinations are not required at the district’s schools and does not expect that to change in the current school year. Officials, he said, are asking parents to self-report their student’s COVID-19 vaccinations. Gov Gavin Newsom has said the state plans to make the vaccine mandatory in K-12 schools, but not until it receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We’re extremely grateful for the work of the County Office of Education for coordinating the availability of vaccines on our campuses,” Rolens said. “It’s such an easier route to take for any parent.”

Dr. David Ghilarducci, the deputy officer of Santa Cruz County Health, said he encourages parents to vaccinate their children.

“I want to reassure parents that the vaccinations all continue to be very safe and their children are much better off getting vaccinated,” he said. “It not only would be better for the children but better for their families and everyone around them”

Previously, he said that he understood that some parents may have some concerns, but that the vaccine is safe.

Where to go

Below are the clinics provided by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Hours are Fridays 2:30 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Cabrillo College, Parking Lot K, 6500 Soquel Dr., Aptos
  • PVUSD District Office, 294 Green Valley Rd., Watsonville
  • Santa Cruz COE, 399 Encinal St., Santa Cruz

To schedule an appointment, visit the Santa Cruz County Office of Education website.

Children aged 5 to 11 can also receive vaccines from CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens. The closest available appointments for that age group through CVS are in Watsonville and San Jose while Walgreens has appointments in Scotts Valley.