Written by Jane Lu
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
As of October 29, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 through 11, offering millions of children and families a way to help protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19 — while also supporting communities, and paving the way toward regaining a greater sense of normalcy.
With this, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation (TCMF) immediately began contacting school districts in Southern California. Soon, Mountain View School District in El Monte, CA, joined Valle Lindo School District in South El Monte, CA, in administering the vaccine to parents and students at the Valle Lindo School District Office and Madrid Middle School. The community vaccination event took place on November 19 and November 20, and a total of 334 doses were given.
A Collaboration for Community Health
“It is very important to promote vaccination, especially since schools have reopened. Children vaccinated can reduce the risk of infection. Studies have shown that even if they are infected after vaccination, the symptoms of the disease will be relatively mild,” said Kevin Wong, Chief Operating Officer of the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation.
In the winter, the flu is also an increased concern. So, while the two-day vaccination event chiefly provided students in the two school districts with COVID-19 vaccines, volunteer medical professionals also encouraged parents to receive their COVID-19 vaccine boosters and flu shots.
Elizabeth Evans, the Superintendent of Valle Lindo School District, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to help support the collective wellness of the community. Because Tzu Chi’s South El Monte Health Center is located near the school district’s office, Tzu Chi regularly collaborates with the school district to provide community medical services, and volunteers are likewise thankful to be good neighbors within the community.
Lillian French is the Superintendent of the Mountain View School District, and warmly welcomed the Tzu Chi medical team at the event, saying, “When the children were not vaccinated yet, many families reduced their outings due to health concerns. Now, they are finally able to rest assured. After a period of discussion with the Tzu Chi team, and the careful implementation of details together, we can finally carry out this activity. I am very grateful to the Tzu Chi medical staff and volunteers for their dedication.”
Joy Is the Best Reward
Wendy Alvarez brought her nine-year-old daughter to register, and after being vaccinated, the youngster bravely grinned and said, “It’s not painful at all.” Lourdes Diza also took her two daughters for the vaccine. One of her daughters, who was five, was very brave. She received a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine. Not only did she not cry, but expressed joy after receiving the praises of a nurse.
Armando Del Rio, who works in the school district, received the booster shot that day. He expressed that it’s crucial he protect himself and others, and hopes that by taking steps together, the pandemic can ease as soon as possible. One student who is studying Chinese at the age of nine, said, “Vaccination is to protect yourself. And I hope everyone can get the vaccine so that we will all be safer.”
Dr. Julie Lam, the Chief Medical Officer of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, had served on-site for two consecutive days, hoping to help families in nearby communities build a protective network through concrete actions. Every guest underwent preliminary medical consultation procedures before receiving the vaccination. The mindful reminders incidentally helped residents learn more about Tzu Chi Medical’s other services, and that they are welcome to visit the nearest Tzu Chi Medical Center for treatment.
Shuyan Chen, a retired nurse, came to help vaccinate visitors for two consecutive days. “Many children are afraid of injections,” she explained. “Tzu Chi volunteers on the scene will tease the children and distract them to minimize their fear of injections.”
One five-year-old had panicked when he first saw the needle, crying and kicking in resistance until a volunteer hugged him, calming his fears. After receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the child was relieved, and sat calmly on the volunteer’s lap. He then received the flu shot without worry.