The Palo Alto school district and a Palo Alto nonpublic school for students with disabilities are hosting on-site vaccine clinics to support the safe reopening of their respective campuses.
Palo Alto Unified will offer the Pfizer vaccine at Palo Alto High School this weekend in the hopes of reaching employees who haven't been able to access the COVID-19 vaccine, while AchieveKids vaccinated 60 staff and students last week at the Middlefield Road nonpublic school.
Palo Alto Unified partnered with Safeway Pharmacy after Assistant Superintendent Equity and Student Affairs Lana Conaway saw a flyer advertising their services in another county. She reached out to Safeway and within two days they had a plan for vaccinating district staff over two days, this Saturday, March 20, and then on April 10.
"We have been following the guidance of the experts and we know the COVID-19 vaccination not only saves lives but helps reduce the spread of the virus," Conaway said. "Why wouldn't we want to do what we can to make it more accessible to our staff so that we can get teachers and students back in classrooms as safely as possible?"
Close to 200 employees have signed up so far to receive the vaccine through this partnership, Conaway said. Safeway Pharmacy will be providing both the first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, so employees who already received their first shot can also finish the vaccine on campus. The site will be located at the Peery Family Center at Paly and staffed by district volunteers.
The on-site vaccinations are only available to employees, not students. It's open to staff with and without insurance, as well as family members who are currently eligible for the vaccine under the state's tier system.
The new partnership comes as the district has reopened for all grade levels — a major milestone since closing due to the coronavirus a year ago. Kindergarteners through high school seniors now all have options to be on campuses, though high schoolers aren't yet able to receive direct instruction in person. The district sent a survey out to employees on Thursday to find out how many have been vaccinated to date.
AchieveKids, which serves students on the autism spectrum and with other developmental disabilities, partnered with a local Walgreens to offer the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine on March 12. Many of the students who were vaccinated are over 18 years old and at high risk for adverse impacts from the coronavirus yet struggle in unfamiliar environments, so they are difficult to vaccinate, said Karin Klarreich, director of development for AchieveKids.
"Providing vaccines in a familiar setting with friendly faces significantly increases the likelihood of success in vaccination," Klarreich said. "Additionally this is a group of young people who also struggle with masks and understanding social distancing, so this measure adds further protections for them, their families and our overall school environment."
One parent said they had struggled before to find somewhere to vaccinate their child and little available information about the vaccine for children with special needs, even from their own doctor and local children's hospitals.
"I am grateful for AchieveKids for making the necessary arrangements to have the vaccines at their campus," the parent said. "It was easier for my son and for us. It was fast and smooth."
AchieveKids has been open for in-person instruction since the fall but is planning to bring back more students starting in April in light of the available vaccines and improving public health conditions.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.