Hundreds of teens get vaccinated at event for underserved communities in south Phoenix

AZFamily Channel 3 / CBS 5 5/13/21

When Ximena Contreras sat down to get her COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, it was so monumental her dad called her sister on FaceTime and they snapped a photo. At first, Contreras was nervous, but getting her shot was exciting.

“In our family, we had a rough patch,” she said. “My dad and my sister got COVID and it hit us really hard. And after that, my dad was in the hospital for 20 days.”

The high school sophomore was one of about 700 12- to 15-year-olds who rolled up their sleeves at a special vaccination event at C.O. Greenfield Elementary School in south Phoenix. “I’m just looking forward to going back to school in person,” said Alejandro Saizar, who was there with his dad.

The event was made possible, in part, by the Equality Health and Herozona Foundations. It’s an effort to get the vaccine directly into underserved communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“Usually, I’m very sad about the disparities we see throughout our community,” said pediatrician Dr. Duane Wooten. “This is a day that I’m very proud of.”

While there’s more work to be done, Dr. Cara Christ, director of Arizona Department of Health Services, was one of a handful of community leaders at the school. The Pfizer vaccine was approved through an emergency use authorization, and Dr. Christ says there are no plans to require COVID-19 vaccines in schools. Arizona’s Family asked Dr. Christ if those policies may change when they get full FDA approval.

“You know we would have to take a look and see what the ACIP (the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommendations are and what the proportion is of the vaccination,” Dr. Christ said. “Like we don’t require flu vaccine at schools. If this is more like a flu vaccine, then we may not require it for schools. But that’s a discussion for way down the road.”

Organizers say the event Thursday was in a ZIP code with low vaccine participation rates and high COVID-19 exposure. The group will meet Monday to talk about long-term plans and where to go next. Tomas Leon with Equality Health says about 600 people signed up within 24 hours and they had about 100 doses available for walk-ups.

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