By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — In the 12 days since the COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children 5-to 11-years-old, Santa Clara County has administered nearly 34,000 doses, comprising 20% of the age group. After such a strong start, health officials don’t want to lose momentum.

“So I think we’ve done pretty well, 20% in two weeks,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County Vaccine Officer.

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The progress report comes as the county unveiled kid-friendly, jungle-themed decorations at its mass vaccination at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.

Funded by the Valley Medical Center Foundation with private donations, a team of designers and events professionals “transformed into a jungle with inviting colors, animals, rainforest-like trees and lots of games, coloring, scavenger hunts, Fidgets and other small toys.”

The foundation collected about a $250,000 from Bloom Energy, the Bloom Energy Stars and Strides Run, and tech executive and philanthropist Godfrey Sullivan.

Camie Vankeuren, Chief Development Officer at Valley Medical Center Foundation, said the a portion of the funds would also be used for ongoing education and outreach to parents. The jungle decorations were meant to distract the children from the needles, and create a positive experience that will encourage other families to participate.

“We really wanted that feel when they came in, the distraction. So they didn’t see the tables. They didn’t see the red buckets where the needles go in. They just saw the fun interactions,” said Vankeuren.

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The launch of the county’s new jungle theme comes as coronavirus cases are trending upwards in the South Bay, rising steadily since Halloween. On Monday, the 7-day rolling average was 176. By comparison, case counts hovered in the low 130s in early October.

“Our cases were going down at the end of that Delta surge in September. But now they have flattened and are just ever so slightly going up. So we’re keeping an eye on if that’s why we want people to be vaccinated,” said Fenstersheib.

Dr. Robert Wachter, Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, said the unvaccinated are not only prolonging the pandemic, but creating a new normal.

“I think we’re in an odd place where we may be seeing a version of our future,” said Wachter. “More people are going to get infected more people are going to are going to die than should be. But I do think that where we have to sort of accept reality that we’re probably not going to get that much better than we are now.”

In October, Santa Clara County issued a joint announcement with several other Bay Area Counties, regarding the easing the indoor mask orders, if the following guidelines were met:

  • the county must be in the Yellow Tier for three weeks
  • COVID hospitalizations are “low and stable”, in the judgment of the Health Officer
  • 80% of the county’s total population must be fully vaccinated, or
  • 8 weeks have passed since vaccine approval for 5-to 11-year-olds

In Santa Clara County, it’s estimated that 55% of 5 to 11-year-olds must get the shot in order for the county to reach the 80% vaccination threshold for the total population.

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“At this point we’re still looking at those guidelines, especially moving into a winter season when we are starting to see potentially a slight increasing. So now is not the time to let down our guard whatsoever. Let’s get through the holidays. Let’s see how we do in the next couple of months,” said Fenstersheib.