A steady stream of cars trickled into the parking garage outside of the Curtis M. Phillips Center for Alachua County’s first vaccination site for children on Wednesday afternoon.
UF Health Screen, Test and Protect held the vaccine clinic for children ages 5 to 11, who were approved for a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by the FDA on Oct. 29.
Matthew Walser, a physician assistant who helped run the vaccination site, said they worked on making the parking garage fun for kids.
Driving into the garage, children and their parents were greeted by an Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy in a cowboy hat with a teddy bear sitting next to him. Balloons were scattered around the testing site, and lollipops were available for nervous children.
Through the four-hour period, 240 children were scheduled for vaccinations. Walser said the spots filled up fast. Parents received a message from the Alachua County School District on Tuesday a little after 11:30 a.m. announcing the drive-up clinic.
In the first hour of Wednesday’s event, 71 children were vaccinated. The time allotted for each patient was doubled to allow for children to calm their nerves.
“We knew how many [adult] vaccines that a vaccinator could do in an hour, but when you talk about a kid, it’s gonna be really different,” Walser said. “So what we did was cut that number in half and it’s worked out pretty well.”
The children who were vaccinated Wednesday were automatically given an appointment slot for their second dose on Dec. 8.
Walser said that they weren’t sure how many more of drive-up clinics UF Health Screen, Test and Protect would do.
“We have Dec. 8 is definitely on the books, and we’re talking about another event after Thanksgiving,” said Walser.
According to the message sent to parents on Tuesday, vaccinations would also be offered in the schools.
“The Health Department will also be providing free COVID vaccinations to younger students at school during school hours beginning December 7,” the message said.
For Walser, the point is to protect more people.
“This is a means to an end to get everybody protected, and that means a lot to grandma and grandpa,” said Walser.