Thursday afternoon the auditorium inside the Richardson Independent School District administration building turned into a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for those interested in getting a shot.
School starts on Tuesday, Aug. 17 and the district said it wanted to arm not only students, teachers and staff, but the entire community with an extra tool to prevent the coronavirus.
"We strongly believe that and we want to support the vaccine. We recognize that it does provide a safety measure for our families. And so, because we know we have families that do want this, we want to make it as convenient as possible because ultimately our goal in the district is to keep our students and staff safe," said Brenda Payne, Assistant Superintendent Administrative Services for Richardson ISD.
RISD said it launched the signup for the vaccine clinic last week. On Monday they had about 53 people sign up, but after opening it up to the community and by Thursday had about 300 people sign up.
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"School is about to start, there's a lot of concern around the new variant and I think there are more people that are realizing that this is the time to do it. They may have been hesitant before, but recognizing this may be the best way to keep their kids in school," said Payne.
They worked with a company called Gene IQ to administer the Pfizer vaccine. The district said it was optional and not mandatory.
"Do what's best for your family, do what feels right for you. We support you either way, and we just want our kids back in school we want them healthy and safe," said Payne.
Deonte Dean, a 15-year-old sophomore from Lake Highlands said he decided to roll up his sleeve on Thursday after doing his own research and speaking with a family member.
"I wanted to keep my community and my school safe and mainly my family because COVID is getting really bad right now," said Dean whose had several members catch the illness.
His other concern had to do with sports. He's a running back for the varsity football team and doesn't want the coronavirus to impact the season like it did in 2020.
"Keep our teammates safe, and keep our season going because they shut it down last year and don’t want that to happen this year," said Dean.
He also acknowledged that there is hesitancy amongst his peers to get the vaccine.
“A lot of them don’t want to get it because they’re hearing like rumors about side effects but none of them actually looked into actual vaccination what it is," he explained.
Children over the age of 12 are eligible to receive a vaccine, but doctors say there are still many who are not.
"I know that most of the area school districts are opening school and people are going to be going to school in person, for the most part, a lot of those kids are not vaccinated. A lot of those kids aren't even eligible at the current time to be vaccinated, but certainly teenagers are," said Dr. Joseph Chang, Chief Medical Officer for Parkland Health and Hospital System. "A lot of them still have not been vaccinated. and be careful guys, because all those kids are going to interact with each other, and they are going to give it to each other, and they are going to bring it home."
Chang said he's concerned because many people who are unvaccinated are 'parent age', people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. He said currently that's the demographic making up the coronavirus patients in the hospital.
RISD said before the summer break, they hosted two clinics at their high school and about 800 teens received shots.
Payne said they plan to have more clinics in the future, especially if the vaccine is approved for kids under 12.
"As soon as we get word of that, we will be at our elementary schools setting up events. And again, it's all voluntary. Do it if you want to if it's the right thing for your family," said Payne.
Last month Gov. Greg Abbott filed an executive order prohibiting local government entities and school districts from requiring masks. Richardson ISD said while they are not mandatory, they're highly suggested for anyone entering their campuses.