Brownsville ISD to provide childhood vaccinations in-house

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The Texas Department of State Health Services has certified the Brownsville Independent School District as a childhood vaccine provider, meaning BISD can now administer all required childhood immunizations at school.

BISD received certification under the Texas Vaccines for Children program two weeks ago. The district is receiving supplies and plans a series of clinics in coming weeks at schools across the district to provide childhood immunizations as well as COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters and this year’s flu vaccine, Health Services Director Alonso Guerrero said.

The immunizations are free under the state program. Parents have always had to make sure their children were up to date on immunizations for mumps, measles, polio and a host of other childhood diseases. Previously, school nurses would notify parents, who then would then have to schedule a doctor’s appointment to for their child to get the shots.

“Now instead of our kids having to go to the doctor to get their regular vaccines, the district can offer it free of charge to those kids. As long as they are a child in need of a vaccine, we will vaccinate them,” Guerrero said.

The clinics will be much like the ones the district offered during the pandemic. Early on BISD became a COVID-19 vaccine provider. It then conducted drive-thru vaccination drives, clinics at the schools and ultimately provided the shots by appointment at the Central Administration Building, 708 Palm Blvd.

“As of right now, due to COVID, vaccination numbers were down” for the immunizations the state requires for a child to be able to attend public school, Judy Alvear, a licensed vocational nurse who helped organize BISD’S COVID vaccination effort, said.

“She’s the one that helped us run the COVID program, organize the paperwork, keep us in compliance,” Guerrero said.

He added that the Texas Vaccines for Children program has been around for awhile. The district finally decided to move on it, applied for certification in May and has now received it.

The program’s goal is to have healthier kids and minimize absences.

“There’s a state mandate that requires students that are enrolled in public schools to have vaccines. At every age there’s different vaccines that they need. So back in the day, before we became a provider, we had to send kids to the doctor. You had to wait a month or two before you get an appointment, pay your copays, pay your fees and all that. So now we cut the middle men. We can go directly, give these kids the vaccines they need. They don’t miss school, they stay healthier, they do it all under one roof,” Guerrero said.

Renata Garza, 7, receives the COVID-19 vaccine at DHR Health on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“It’s a win win for everybody. It helps our attendance. It helps the family. They’re already at school. We can give them their vaccine right there at school,” he said.

This time of year BISD and all public schools around the state are pushing to reach peak attendance by Snapshot Day on the last Friday of October.

“We have to send our numbers to the state, how many kids we have, so if the kid by that day does not have all their vaccines they cannot come to school and be counted. They cannot be included in those numbers,” Guerrero said.

“People need to be on the lookout through social media or our Facebook page or our website for when we’re going to have a clinic and where. It’s going to be on a first come first served basis when we have those clinics. When it slows down we’ll be having them here at the CAB like we did with COVID afterwards,” he said.

BISD has about 37,000 students. All of its schools have a school nurse, two to three for the high schools, one to two for middle schools and at least one in the elementary schools depending on enrollment. The nurses have shot records for all students.

They will be notifying parents about the clinics through letters and flyers sent home to parents.

“If parents have any questions they can call here to our office at (956) 548-8191 and ask when is the next clinic when can get their child immunized against whatever they need,” Guerrero said.

“One thing we learned through COVID, through being a provider, was that we can handle it,” he said.