Karen Beard was in the middle of grocery shopping Saturday morning at the H-E-B off of W.W. White Road when she decided to stop by the pharmacy and find out if she could get her 13-year-old granddaughter vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Beard’s granddaughter is a student at Davis Middle School in the San Antonio Independent School District. Beard had heard the district would be offering vaccines to students and their families Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon. 

“I want to make sure she gets vaccinated and is protected against the virus before she goes back to school in the fall,” Beard told the San Antonio Report Saturday. “I don’t want to see my baby get sick.”

That was also the motivation for SAISD to partner with H-E-B to get more students vaccinated before returning to school in person in the fall. The partners held a series of “graduation vaccination clinics” this week on SAISD campuses and at select H-E-B stores Saturday to help connect more students and families to shots. 

“We have some communities in some zip codes that don’t have the same ease of access to medical resources, and it may not be as easy for them to get to sites for testing or vaccines or general medical care,” said Toni Thompson, associate superintendent of human resources at SAISD. “We don’t want our families to be [at a] disadvantage.”

SAISD has partnered with local organizations and pharmacies to help get more students and their families vaccinated over the past few weeks, she added.

As a part of this effort, SAISD held “graduation clinics” for seniors at five of its high schools over the past three weeks, and clinics open to all eligible students at eight of its campuses over the past week. To extend the opportunity to families in the community, seven H-E-B stores in the district participated in clinics Saturday as well. 

“We’re honored also to provide SAISD families with an opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Julie Bedingfield, H-E-B public affairs manager in a statement. 

When students come back in the fall, SAISD wants to see as many of its students, employees, and their families vaccinated as possible to make sure school can resume in person, Thompson said. 

“Virtual was necessary but does not produce the same results, as the data shows,” she said. “We want our students to be back in much more robust numbers in the fall and we don’t have the luxury of doing 6-foot distancing in all our classrooms, so we want our students to be protected.”

Vaccines in combination with continued safety protocols will ensure SAISD has safer environments for its students and staff, said SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

“We couldn’t do this without our community and health partners, and we are grateful to H-E-B for working with us to provide these clinics,” he said. 

Thompson said about 20% of SAISD students are currently vaccinated, but the district hopes to see that number increase over the next few months. Overall about 46.4% of Bexar County residents have been vaccinated, according to state health data.

Disclosure: H-E-B is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...