Students get immunizations and turkeys at drive-thru event

A student receives a shot at the “Free Drive-Thru School Immunization Drive and Turkey Giveaway” at the District Administration Building on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (All photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

The West Contra Costa Unified School District’s (WCCUSD) “Free Drive-Thru School Immunization Drive and Turkey Giveaway” at the District Administration Building today saw more than 200 students receive immunizations aimed at protecting their overall health, preparing them for an eventual classroom return and giving them the chance to be marked “present” at school again.

As an added bonus, students and their families received something seasonal for their troubles: One 10-14 pound turkey, a bag of groceries containing pantry staples and some milk. In addition, 200 $50 Safeway gift cards were handed out courtesy of the West Contra Costa Public Ed Fund and Safeway gave away coupons for 10 percent off at its stores.

WCCUSD personnel teamed up with Blue Shield of California, Safeway and Hill Physicians Medical Group to pull off the event, which featured drive-thru stations where students were administered the shots they needed. At one point today, 25 vehicles were lined up along Bissell Ave. as they awaited their turn. Once the immunization was done, the family drove their car over an adjoining section where the turkey and other goods were loaded into their trunk.

According to Sonya Neely–Johnson, WCCUSD director of special education secondary who supervises the nurses, varicella vaccines that protect against chicken pox were also being administered today at the Safeway in El Cerrito. In addition to the drive-thru appointments, the sites were also taking walk-ups.

“We had approximately 750 kids who initially hadn’t been immunized,” said Neely–Johnson about the total number of students districtwide that required immunizations. “They had difficulty getting doctors’ appointments and getting into our county clinic because they have limited hours. And so this is our day to try to help alleviate that and to try to get our kids immunized,” she added.

As for the turkeys, Neely–Johnson said that the district has a total of 10,000 that “are not just being given out today—they’re also being given out at our other [food service] sites where we give out food on a regular basis.”

According to WCCUSD Director of Communications Robert Jordan, the importance of the immunizations expands beyond good health and preparing for an eventual return to the classrooms—it also has to do with students’ attendance status.

“They are doing everything they are supposed to do now as students: they’re distance learning, they’re turning in the work. Unfortunately, the state has said we must mark these students absent…If they’re not immunized, they’re being marked absent,” said Jordan.

Jordan noted that Tony Wold, WCCUSD associate supervisor of business services, has plans to petition the state about its immunization policy related to attendance.

For more information about the WCCUSD, click here.