At El Toro Academy, 399 children ages 5 to 11 get COVID-19 vax shots

By Marty Cheek

Parents brought their children to El Toro Health Science Academy Saturday Nov. 6 to receive their shots for COVID-19 after the federal government approved vaccination for youth ages 5 to 11. Among the 399 children who got an inoculation were Los Paseos Elementary School students Noor and Yacin.

“I was excited because if, God forbid, I get COVID, it won’t be that bad,” 10-year-old Noor said. “And also nervous because it might hurt a little.”

The needle jab stung a little bit, but it’s a good hurt, she said soon after receiving her shot. “I was just screaming in my head: ‘I can do it. I can do it.’”

Her brother, 7-year-old Yacin, described the injection as feeling “like the nurse was punching my arm.” Before getting his shot, he described his feelings as happy, nervous and scared. “I was stacked with all the feelings in the world,” he said.

Their mother, Eman Alshatanofy, said she and her husband took the opportunity to bring their children to the first of several vaccination clinics locally because they want to make sure Noor and Yacin are inoculated against COVID-19 for their protection against the dangerous virus.

“I’m so excited that finally, maybe things are getting to an end, and this COVID thing will get to an end,” she said.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention approved COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 on Nov. 2. The next day, Santa Clara County began the first vaccinations for young people in that age group. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only option for this group, which numbers more than 167,000 children in the county.

Vaccinations are scientifically proven to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Parents and guardians should visit to sign up for an appointment or to find a convenient walk-in location. Vaccines for youth ages 5 to 11 are smaller doses and specially formulated.

“This is an important step in protecting our children and our community, providing relief for families, and creating an additional level of protection to maintain in-person learning for our schools,” said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer and director of Public Health for the county. “We encourage all parents with children age 5 and older to get their children vaccinated now.”

In addition to offering vaccine appointments for children at sites operated by the county throughout the community, the county is also partnering with school districts to offer vaccination on-site at schools, particularly in the county’s most disproportionately affected communities. About 80 school locations have been identified for on-site vaccinations. Vaccinations are provided at no-cost to recipients. Health insurance is not required and there are no immigration status questions.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Fawn Myers coordinated efforts between the Morgan Hill Unified School District and Safeway Pharmacy to set up a series of children vaccination clinics that started with the Nov. 6 clinic at El Toro.

“It’s important for us that we keep our doors open,” she said about the partnership. “It’s important that students can continue coming to school in as safe an environment as possible, and vaccines have proven to be very strong in preventing illness and certainly preventing the spread and we want to do our part as a community member to make sure students have access to the vaccine.”

The Morgan Hill community has been overall supportive of the clinics, she said. No one vehemently protested the district for inoculating the children.

“We have concerns on both sides — concerns that we’re not doing enough, not testing enough,” she said. “And then we have concerns on the other end: don’t you dare get near my kid with a swab and don’t talk to me about vaccines. We do have both, but I would say just in general, parents really care about their kids.”

City councilmember John McKay assisted in organizing 12 Rotary Club of Morgan Hill and Community Emergency Response Team members to volunteer their time at the El Toro clinic by assisting parents and students go through the process of getting their needle jabs. Besides the children, 102 adults received their COVID-19 booster shots and 136 people got their flu shots.

“It was very active. Every volunteer was busy,” he said. “The only thing the volunteers didn’t do was give the shots themselves and perform the final check on the forms filled out by adults for their children.”

As of early November, the United States has seen a little more than 750,000 deaths of its citizens resulting from COVID-19 — more deaths than the American Civil War. The volunteers give their time with the clinics to mitigate the impact of the virus.

“COVID-19 has had such an impact on our lives as a people and our community. It affects how our community functions,” McKay said. “You think about the business impact, the health impact, everybody walking around as human beings. This has got to be everybody’s job No. 1 right now. The work we put in now will make our lives so much easier later.”

Robert Airoldi