Unvaccinated Numbers Down, Well-Checks Up in Spring Branch, Northwest Houston With TMA Outreach
By Alisa Pierce


Hundreds of Spring Branch and Northwest Houston-area kids headed back to school all caught up on their vaccinations and well-child checks, thanks in part to the Texas Medical Association’s Vaccines Defend What Matters initiative.

And many of those kids walked away with brand new school supplies and a snow cone to boot.

With the help of a TMA Foundation (TMAF)-funded grant, Spring Branch Community Health Center hosted its annual Back-to-School Vaccine + School Supply Drive throughout the month of August, with the goal of raising immunization rates and providing accessible health care to underserved communities. Children aged 5 to 18 were vaccinated against preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, polio, whooping cough, and diphtheria, among others. Human papillomavirus vaccinations were offered to adolescents and teenagers, and COVID-19 vaccinations were administered upon request.

These kinds of drives allow physicians to provide comprehensive care to patients who might not regularly receive it, says Pasadena pediatrician Lindy Upton McGee, MD. She serves on the board of The Immunization Partnership, of which TMA is a member.

They are “a great way to get people not only vaccinated, but back to their medical homes, especially those who have access-to-care issues,” Dr. McGee said. “Well-child checks are so important. They’re about development, health and nutrition, anticipatory guidance, physical exams. … Vaccines are just one part.”

Texas experienced low childhood vaccinations throughout the pandemic, and a recent Texas Department of State Health Services report shows some kids are still behind.

Spring Branch community health workers administered free vaccines to children from the area as well as west and northwest areas of Houston, regardless of insurance status, says Violet Shockley, a grant writer for the health center. This ensured children, including those uninsured or covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, were able to satisfy the vaccination requirements of school districts in order to attend classes.

The event also aimed to schedule as many well-child checks as possible, guaranteeing the children would receive preventive care along with their immunizations.

Between the vaccine drive and subsequent well-child visits, the health center was able to vaccinate 819 children for a total of 1,876 immunizations.

This, Ms. Shockley says, was an important way to provide care to a community in need.

“We operate in communities that are considered medically underserved, which can mean they don’t have immediate services in the area,” she said. “The bottom line is that some of these families don’t have a regular doctor that they go to, so we try to use [the drive] to show them we are in the community, you don’t need to pay, you don’t need to have insurance, just come get care as you need it, especially for the kiddos.”

The TMA Foundation has supported Spring Branch’s vaccine drive for the past six years.

At previous events, that support made it possible to hire weekend staff, Ms. Shockley says. This year, it covered marketing materials, top-notch school supplies, snow cones, and even face painting. “Basically, all the stuff that made the event fun,” Ms. Shockley said. 

TMA’s Vaccines Defend What Matters is funded in 2022 by the TMA Foundation thanks to major support from H-E-B, TMF Health Quality Institute, Permian Basin Youth Chavarim, and gifts from physicians and their families.

Last Updated On

October 17, 2022

Originally Published On

October 17, 2022

Alisa Pierce

Reporter, Division of Communications and Marketing

(512) 370-1469
Alisa Pierce

Alisa Pierce is a reporter for Texas Medicine. After graduating from Texas State University, she worked in local news, covering state politics, public health, and education. Alongside her news writing, Alisa covered up-and-coming artists in Central Texas and abroad as a music journalist. As a Texas native, she enjoys capturing the landscape on her film camera while hiking her way across the Lonestar State.

More stories by Alisa Pierce