Over 7,000 local kids 5-11 get first dose; ‘vaccine van’ headed to schools

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SAN DIEGO — More than 7,000 children ages 5-11 in San Diego have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and starting this week a “mobile vaccine van” will head to local campuses to help students and staff get their shots.

The van is the latest push to make doses more accessible to new age groups that have only recently become eligible for vaccination against the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 7,320 children ages 5 through 11 had received their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine — the only one approved for that age group.

Starting with older kids, California has mandated the vaccines for schoolchildren, though the state only requires shots in cases where the age group has full FDA approval. For now, that’s teens 16 and older, while there’s emergency authorization for kids 12-and-up and 5-and-up.

While the shots for the youngest age bracket aren’t required for classroom instruction, county health officials are encouraging parents not to wait.

“It’s great that San Diegans are getting their booster shots and that parents are vaccinating their children,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “This will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as we enter the holiday season and into 2022. The more people who are vaccinated, the better off we’ll be at putting this pandemic behind us.”

To that end, a mobile vaccine van will head to sites around the county and provide the shots for free. The program will run at least through December and offer first- and second-dose shots of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Johnson & Johnson vaccines and booster shots, all depending on which shots the student or staff member is eligible for.

“No appointments are necessary, although children under the age of 18 will need a parent or guardian present,” San Diego Unified School District explained in a news release. “The exception is that students at the hosting school can receive a vaccine without a parent present with a signed parental consent form.”

Upcoming stops include the district’s Eugene Brucker Education Center in University Heights on Friday, Morse High School in southeast San Diego next Monday and Bell Middle School in Bay Terraces next Tuesday. View the full schedule here.

National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis also announced the city’s partnership with the National Elementary School District and local providers to get students ages 5 and up vaccinated starting Friday.

“This is a guarantee for the 4,000 students that participate in our National School District, however just like we did for the other vaccination efforts,” Sotelo-Solis said. “You don’t have to be from National City to benefit from these vaccinations.”

The effort kicks off Friday at Central Elementary School. Three hundred vaccines will be available in a two-hour period starting at 3:30 p.m.

Next week’s availability includes times before and after school at all 10 of the district’s elementary schools. A second dose schedule is set for early December.

The county Health and Human Services Agency added the 5-11 age group to the number of San Diegans considered eligible for vaccination in their weekly statistics, increasing that number to 3,147,936.

“As a result, the percentages of San Diegans who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and of those who are fully vaccinated dropped by about nine percentage points each compared to last week,” an HHSA statement read.

The number of county residents who have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine is now nearly 2.57 million — or 81.7% of residents 5 and older. More than 2.32 million, or 73.8% of that cohort, are fully vaccinated.

Information on vaccinating kids is available online from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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