Thomas Jefferson High School will host a Pfizer vaccination clinic on Saturday, April 24th for students ages 16 and older.
When the state of Colorado moved to Phase Two for COVID-19 vaccine distribution—making vaccinations available to the general public—on Friday, April 2nd, Coloradans from every region hastened to their computers to sign up to receive a potentially life-saving dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. As a result, many eligible individuals were unable to schedule a vaccination appointment. Luckily, in two weeks, 700 members of the TJ community will have the opportunity to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In accordance with Governor Jared Polis’s Vaccines for All plan, TJ will provide a drive-through/walk-up vaccination clinic for students ages 16 and up on Saturday, April 24th from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., followed by a clinic for the administration of the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Saturday, May 15th.
“As a TJ community, the more kids that we have vaccinated, the less likely there is for transmission amongst other kids,” explained Dr. Rebecca Andrick, a TJ parent who organized the vaccine clinic. “As a society in all of Colorado, in all of the US, we are going to have to vaccinate ourselves out of these problems. We are not going to be able to get rid of COVID until we get to herd immunity.” Andrick was able to organize the vaccination event through a collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). “I am a physician, and I have been volunteering in a lot of vaccine clinics that are going on around Colorado. A lot of the ones that I have been working at are put on by our public health department. A lot of them are health equity clinics; they get put in places where there are minorities or socioeconomically disadvantaged people to make sure that there is equity for everyone to have the opportunity to get vaccinated,” Andrick revealed. “All of a sudden I thought, ‘Wow, now that they have opened up the vaccine priority to everybody, I wonder if we could do a vaccine clinic at TJ to get the kids that are 16 and older.’ I started thinking about it more and I thought if I applied to CDPHE to get one of these health equity clinics—because TJ has a large minority population—we would qualify as a health equity clinic.” Andrick reached out to Principal Michael Christoff about her idea, and he was immediately on board. After being approved by the CDPHE, they set up a SignUpGenius for students to select a vaccination time (found here) and began to spread the word.
“It has been going fairly smoothly. I do not think there has been anything too challenging so far,” Andrick reflected. After students were given a week to sign up, the clinic was opened to all members of the community, allowing parents, siblings, and other family members of Spartans to schedule an appointment. “The challenge will be on the day of the clinic. We have 700 vaccine doses to give on that Saturday within a six hour period. We are having 39 people sign up every 20 minutes through those six hours, so we are going to have a pretty fast flow of cars driving through the parking lot and getting their shots, and after you get your shot you have to sit and be observed for fifteen minutes to make sure you do not have a reaction. If we can keep the traffic flowing, if we can keep the volunteers going in the right direction, that’s going to be the challenge.” Luckily, students can help to ensure that the process runs smoothly. “We would love to have students help volunteer; I need people to help guide traffic; I need volunteers to help the vaccinators. Sometimes it helps to have people work in teams,” added Andrick. Those wishing to help out can sign up here; volunteers will receive lunch, snacks, and, if they need it, a vaccination.
For senior Skylar Viener, the TJ vaccination clinic was much more accessible than other immunization avenues. “It’s really hard for anybody under 18 to get the vaccine right now. I originally signed up through Kaiser, but their line is so long that I decided to do TJ,” she recalled. “It’s easier because I know the location and I’ll probably get to see some classmates.” Viener, like all 16 and 17-year-olds, will have to bring a parent or guardian with her to the vaccination, but for Viener and many other TJ students, it is worth the extra trouble. “Even though we will still have to wear masks and socially distance at times, it will make it easier for us to get back to normal and be able to be healthier,” she commented.
From a personal, community, or global perspective, receiving a COVID vaccination is enormously beneficial. Andrick explained, “You can think of it for an individual person, it really provides you with a much greater sense of freedom and allows you to go and socialize with your friends and do some normal things.” While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention still advises vaccinated individuals to continue wearing masks and following sensible social distancing practices, the mere release of anxiety that can come from knowing that one has taken a step towards immunity against this vicious virus is enough to make vaccines worthwhile. Andrick continued, “I think we have a community reason. Each of us are a part of a community. The more of us that are vaccinated, the risk to everybody of getting COVID and us transmitting it to each other goes down. You can transmit it to people who are potentially more vulnerable than you, so from a community perspective, I think that that’s an important reason to vaccinate as many people as we can.” Though many American adolescents might believe that the coronavirus does not significantly impact youth’s health, that comfortable notion is misguided. “I think that we have a sort of false perception that COVID is not dangerous for kids and for teens—they have a mild infection and nothing really goes wrong—but I think that is false,” Andrick contended. “There are a lot of kids who have been hospitalized with more serious complications of COVID.”
On the 24th, students and parents will be able to drive into the TJ parking lot through the entrance by the intersection of East Jefferson Avenue and South Ivanhoe Street directly across from the Rabbi Daniel and Ida Goldberger Youth Center. “They will drive around the parking lot towards the baseball fields. We will have tents set up. We’ll probably have at least six vaccination stations. People will drive through, get their shot, and then drive around to the bigger part of the parking lot and park their car for fifteen minutes so they can be observed,” Andrick clarified. Three weeks later, the semi-vaccinated individuals will return to the TJ campus on May 15th to receive their second shot. “Get the vaccine no matter what. Even though the [vaccine side effects] might be tough, the benefits after that are better,” insisted Viener. By receiving their vaccination, TJ Spartans will take a step towards a healthier life and a healthier world.