Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) and the City of Berkeley held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at City Hall during the last week of summer break.
The clinic, located across from Berkeley High School (BHS), was run with healthcare provider Carbon Health, and took place every weekday of last week.
BUSD Public Information Officer Trish McDermott said the district wanted students attending registration and orientation to be able to get vaccinated. BUSD has hosted clinics at City Hall and Longfellow Middle School in collaboration with the city since May 2021, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.
Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Berkeley’s Public Health Officer, said having vaccine sites at or near schools increases access to vaccination for students and their families.
“The nice thing about both of these sites that are co-located with schools is that [they are] open to the whole community,” she said. “We saw a lot of kids and their families coming together to get vaccinated.”
Crystal Sensabaugh, a nurse administering vaccinations at the City Hall clinic and a BHS class of ‘04 graduate, also saw students come to the City Hall clinic with other people.
“On Monday, about one third of the people we vaccinated were high schoolers. Of those, half of them were friends, related, or spoke to each other,” she said. “When it’s students, talking with friends makes them more comfortable because it’s someone they know.”
Tatiana Costa, the site lead at the City Hall Clinic, said over 200 people were getting vaccinated at the clinic per day in May.
As reported by the city, the daily number of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccination has dropped in Berkeley over the last few months. Following this trend, the clinic saw fewer patients daily last week than they did earlier in the year.
“There aren’t a lot of students coming over right now, but when it was graduation [time and] the end of school, there were a lot of people,” Sensabaugh said.
While not all BHS students live in Berkeley, the decrease in student patients corresponds with data from the City of Berkeley showing that the majority of school-aged Berkeley residents eligible for the vaccine are fully vaccinated. Currently, 99% of Berkeley residents aged 12 to 17 have received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and 85% are fully vaccinated.
McDermott said BUSD aimed to help more students get fully vaccinated through the walk-in clinic to decrease missed school-time from quarantining. During the school year, fully vaccinated students won’t have to quarantine if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
“We want to keep students at their desks and doing all of the extracurricular activities that are so meaningful, that some students couldn’t do last year,” she said.
Sensabaugh said the people working at the clinic also answer any questions people have before they decide to get vaccinated.
“Our presence here and being available for people to see us makes them feel they can approach us,” she said. “They can ask questions and leave if they want to think about it and come back.”
The district is also working with the city to keep students informed about the vaccination clinics and the importance of getting vaccinated.
Hernandez said the city may work with BUSD to hold future walk-in-clinics in areas accessible to younger students, when the vaccine opens up to children under 12. There may also be future clinics at City Hall.
“This vaccine site across the street from BHS serves a broader population, so we may keep it there if it’s convenient for the community to access,” she said.
The City of Berkeley is also holding clinics at Berkeley City College on August 24 and 25 from 11 AM to 6 PM.