Back-to-School Vaccination Clinics Adapt During COVID-19
By Tammy Wishard

COVID-19_BTS_Vaccinations

Although the start of school might look different than last year, efforts to help children meet the state vaccination requirements remain as strong as ever, thanks to the Texas Medical Association’s Be Wise – ImmunizeSM program. 

For 28 straight years, the Immunization Collaboration of Tarrant County (ICTC), of which the Tarrant County Medical Society Alliance is a member, has put on a back-to-school vaccination campaign. 

The campaign usually lasts four weeks but will be stretched to eight weeks – until Sept. 11 – this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The event is at Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth this year, instead of five locations around Tarrant County in earlier years. The location was chosen because it has ample space for social distancing, said Terri Andrews, a member of the ICTC board and Tarrant County Medical Society Alliance. 

“We expect lots of make-up vaccinations on top of the back-to-school vaccinations we usually give. We prepared for 10,000 clients compared to the 7,000 we served in 2019,” Ms. Andrews said. 

The early turnout was lower than typical years, in which 250 to 500 clients a day are served, Ms. Andrews said. As of Aug. 15, the ICTC clinic had administered 2,043 vaccine doses to children, and 4,943 Adult Safety Net doses. 

In Houston, the Spring Branch Community Health Center typically holds back-to-school vaccination events across its six clinic locations but switched to one big event this year because of COVID-19. 

The center served about 850 kids from Aug 3 to 21, double the usual number, said David Krusleski, MD, the center’s chief medical officer. 

The six neighborhood clinics, which can provide vaccinations by appointment, are more accessible to families, Dr. Krusleski said. The center partnered with local schools to publicize the events, which provided vaccinations for those entering elementary school to college. 

Be Wise provided grant funding for the Houston events, and educational materials to support ICTC initiatives. 

Ms. Andrews said ICTC wasn’t sure if the immunization clinics would go on during the state shutdown earlier this year. But by mid-June, ICTC decided to move ahead. 

“With Texas opening up in June, we started planning together with Tarrant County Public Health, because we knew there would be a great need for a safe location for families to get children and adults vaccinated,” Ms. Andrews said. ICTC hosts events for Tarrant County Public Health, which also is a member of the coalition. “Now we just need to convince the public to bring their kiddos.” 

Be Wise – Immunize is a joint initiative led by TMA physicians, medical students, and the TMA Alliance. It is funded in 2020 by the TMA Foundation, thanks to major support from H-E-B and Permian Basin Youth Chavarim. 

Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.

Last Updated On

August 25, 2020

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Tammy Wishard

Outreach Coordinator, Division of Communication

(512) 370-1470
Tammy Wishard

Tammy Wishard is TMA’s outreach coordinator. She manages TMA's award-winning Hard Hats for Little Heads and Be Wise — Immunize programs, and the Anson Jones, MD, Awards for excellence in health reporting. She has a 20-plus-year history with TMA, where she started as a writer/editor. Tammy, an Iowa native, is a graduate of Abilene Christian University.

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