by Shawn Chitnis

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Families preparing for the return to school in the new year visited the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose Sunday for a COVID clinic offering dual doses of vaccine and learning.

“He unfortunately got COVID prior to being eligible to getting the vaccine,” said Jesse Guerrero, whose son had turned five a few days before. “When you’re young you touch everything and you bring stuff home whether it’s the flu or the cold or other stuff so being able to vaccinate our son was great.”

Guerrero said he made an appointment to get the vaccination for his son as soon as he became eligible with their primary care doctor and found the museum site more convenient.

“We want to be a resource to families and, this point in time, parents need all the help they can get,” said Marilee Jennings, executive director of the museum. “We don’t want to see any more learning loss so we’re trying to think of everything we can to support getting a vaccination.”

The museum partnered with Santa Clara County Public Health to get 250 doses for this vaccine clinic which offered both initial shots and boosters for adults. The museum will host more clinics in the weeks ahead with the help of the agency. Anyone who got a vaccine on Sunday, also received free museum admission for their family the same day or on another visit over the next six months.

“There is something about kids seeing other kids get vaccinated that helps them a lot,” Jennings told KPIX.

The comfort that came with hosting vaccine clinics at a familiar and friendly setting for children was also reassuring to parents.

“This is wonderful. We’ve been to the Discovery Museum ever since I was a kid and I’m almost 40. I remember taking field trips here,” said Bryan Johansen, who brought his son to the clinic on Sunday.

The event and others like it are meant to encourage more families to get their household vaccinated and build up immunity as students head back to the classroom.

Still, some have criticized the decision by districts and local leaders to keep schools open.

“We have a responsibility to young people — to the people that are vulnerable in our community — to keep doing whatever we can to slow the spread of this virus,” said Adarene Hoag on a Zoom call hosted by the group By Any Means Necessary. She is a community organizer for BAMN, which is calling for face-to-face learning to be delayed until conditions are safer.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says that, while there is a lot of omicron in the community, most of the children who are hospitalized at the moment are unvaccinated. He encourages in-person learning with the right safety measures including vaccines, masks, ventilation, distancing and testing.

“It is relatively safe for kids to go back to school, I think, with a few mitigation factors that we all know so well,” he said. “I think it’s OK to wait. I think the school, however, is a safe environment and in the Bay Area we haven’t seen an uptick in pediatric hospitalizations as much as the East Coast.”

He mentioned that families should use surgical masks for children this year compared to the cloth masks often used in the past. The omicron variant is more transmissible than other mutations and non-medical masks are not as effective at preventing the spread of the virus.

The museum will have a second clinic on Sunday, Jan. 23 and will announce more events for vaccines on its website once dates are finalized. The funding for those doses has already been secured.