(SACRAMENTO)

A volunteer effort to protect vulnerable populations against COVID-19 entered a new phase this week. Students from the UC Davis School of Medicine and Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing are providing vaccinations to teenagers at two Sacramento-area schools. 

The volunteers took their pop-up clinic Tuesday to Cristo Rey High School. Students at the Catholic campus attend classes four days a week and work at an internship once a week to offset tuition. Lately, the employers who partner with Cristo Rey’s work-study program have asked that all employees, including the student interns, be vaccinated. 

Volunteers meet for their briefing before the Cristo Rey High School clinic 

Sixteen students received their Pfizer doses in the multi-purpose room. About 85% of students are vaccinated and the school is trying to boost that number to 100%. 

“Having this accessible to students on campus is huge,” said Principal Kate Coulouras, as teens formed a line to register for the clinic, accompanied by their parents. “Having students be able to walk right down out of class and come into the [multipurpose] room provides a level of comfort to our families that might not feel comfortable going to other places in the city,” she added. 

The afternoon clinic was part of a vaccination initiative led by dedicated volunteers – including UC Davis students, faculty members and other employees – who are determined to increase immunization rates across Sacramento County. The effort, which started in the summer, has included temporary clinics in places such as low-income apartments complexes and grocery stores in areas where unvaccinated residents often lack factual information about COVID-19. 

Volunteers also have scheduled a clinic at Samuel Jackman Middle School in Sacramento on Nov. 9. 

Tuesday marked the third time this year that UC Davis participated in a COVID-19 clinic at Cristo Rey. 

The first two visits were organized by community partners who invited UC Davis Health to join the campaign to vaccinate medically underserved adults in Sacramento and Yolo counties. This most recent clinic was set up after Cristo Rey approached Hendry Ton, the UC Davis Health associate vice chancellor for health equity, diversity and inclusion, about hosting a clinic for students.

Principal Kate Coulouras
Having students be able to walk right down out of class and come into the MP room provides a level of comfort to our families that might not feel comfortable going to other places in the city.Principal Kate Coulouras

Delivering health care at convenient location

“It’s great to be able to have an opportunity to get out to the high school site to deliver health care and reduce barriers so they don’t have to come into clinic to get their shot,” said Eric Crossen, a UC Davis School of Medicine associate clinical professor of pediatrics. 

Aside from working at a back table to prepare the Pfizer doses for syringes, Crossen also spent time gently encouraging a student, who was terrified of needles, to get the vaccine. 

In addition, he took on the role of mentor to volunteers such as first-year medical student Alexandra Inslee.   

Videovideo iconCristo Rey High School student Jacqueline Castañeda receives COVID-19 vaccine from medical student Alexandra Inslee.

“I love helping the community and I think this is a great opportunity – especially in the midst of this pandemic with COVID – to be able to get more vaccines out there to people who need them,” Inslee said. “As a medical student, it’s a great training opportunity, and I get to work directly with people rather than just studying with the books all day.” 

Cristo Rey is located between an industrial and residential area along Jackson Road, just south of Highway 50. The school has 325 students, most of whom are Latino. Principal Coulouras said the vast majority of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals, a federal measure of household income that can signify lack of access to health care. 

The location is part of a zip code that Sacramento County Department of Public Health considers to be “under vaccinated.” 

Offering vaccines in the community is something volunteers look forward to. 

“These clinics are the best hours of my week,” said A. Elise Bryant, office manager for School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear. “I forget all my other worries,” she added, “and I am so gratified to be moving the needle on Sacramento’s vaccination rates.” 

Students and their parents said they appreciated the favorable location. 

“It’s good that the school is doing this,” said Miriam Casteñeda, the mother of 10th grader Jacqueline Castañeda. She noted that the clinic where her family receives health care has a long wait for COVID-19 vaccinations.  “This is very convenient,” she said.