With the new omicron variant spreading and the holiday season here, UConn Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Program headed into Hartford Public Schools to help fight the virus in the community with vaccines for eligible school-aged children ages 5 and above.
“We hope that healthier days and holidays are on the way for school-aged children and their families,” shared Joanne Boucher, RN, director of ambulatory operations at UConn Health.
“I remember you” and “Happy Holidays” were recurring greetings by Boucher and the UConn Health staffers administering the free Pfizer vaccines at the Global Communications Academy in Hartford on Dec. 20 to more than 149 children and their family members. The clinic offered either first or second doses to those in need, or booster shots.
UConn Health was initially onsite at this centrally-located Hartford public school three weeks ago on Nov. 29 when they vaccinated 62 walk-ins. UConn Health plans to be back onsite for another vaccine clinic in three weeks on Jan. 10 to offer additional doses and plans to continue to support the Hartford Public Schools communities in any way they can.
Angel Feliciano Ortiz, 7, of Hartford is a second-grader at the Global Communications Academy and was first on the line for his vaccine.
“Nice job buddy,” cheered on UConn Health’s Boucher after administering the vaccine to Angel and giving him a high five.
“It’s so important for the kids, and the pandemic,” shared Angel’s mother Maryelen Ortiz.
“That only hurt a little,” exclaimed Kennedy Stewart-Small, 8, of East Hartford post-vaccination with her second-dose side-by-side with her big sister Dahlia Small, 9.
“Why are you getting your shot?” asked Dad Kevin of the girls.
“To help slow the spread,” said Kennedy. “And so I don’t get COVID.”
“To stop the spread of COVID. I want COVID to be over,” said Dahlia. “My encouragement is for others to get the vaccine and try not to be scared. Just hold your fist really tight.”
All eligible kids 5+ were warmly given a little orange UConn basketball keepsake by program staffers to hold during their vaccination.
“The vaccine helps with their schooling. If they are vaccinated they can forgo a long quarantine if they happen to have an exposure,” shared Kevin. “That’s a key thing.”
“The vaccine clinic for students 5 and older at Global Communications Academy is the most effective way to guard against COVID-19, minimize disruption, and keep our students in school,” shared Superintendent Dr. Torres-Rodriguez.
JuanPablo Quintero, 7, of Hartford was also getting his second dose before the holidays. His big brother Santiago, 14, who was previously vaccinated, watched on and shared his encouragement.
“Be strong, it’s important,” is Santiago’s wise message for younger kids like his little brother.
Twins were even vaccinated together at the vaccine clinic.
Saagariha and Sarvariha Sunoj, both age 10, attend Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School in Hartford and are proud members of UConn Health’s Health Career Opportunity Program (HCOP) on Friday afternoons where they have even learned about the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine too.
“I am happy that I now got the vaccine. I’m now a little safer,” said Sarvariha.
“I feel safe,” shared her twin sister Saagariha. “COVID-19 is spreading all over the world. Now that I have the vaccine I feel much safer too.”
Mom and Dad are now also relieved. “All the family is now vaccinated,” shared their mother Sharanya Sunoj.
Kandice Delpeche, mother of 4 from East Hartford, is very happy that her youngest children Kor’dae, 6, and K’hloee, 5, are now joining her and their older sister and brother on the road to be fully vaccinated in the coming weeks.
“I was very hesitant at first with the shots. But I just got mine last week,” says Delpeche. “I saw this event and now everyone is getting their shots as things are getting worse. Even K’hloee’s been saying ‘I want my shot.’ They listen to the news. COVID is in their vocabulary now.”
Delpeche stressed: “With omicron I hope they all stay healthy!”
And UConn Health has the same holiday season wish.
“We wants all kids to stay healthy and strong – and their families,” said Boucher. “Every shot makes a difference. UConn Health hopes everyone has a nice and healthy holiday.”
Superintendent Dr. Torres-Rodriguez shared: “To ensure the health and safety of our students, families, and staff, we are pleased to collaborate with our health partners at UConn Health.”