His son just 5 months old, Raymond Briseno has come home from his job as an elementary school gym teacher worrying about COVID-19 and whether he might be unwittingly bringing the virus to his vulnerable family.
But on Tuesday he was relieved to be among the first San Antonio Independent School District teachers and staff members to receive the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
In partnership with SAISD, South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals (STAAMP) vaccinated 100 teachers and staff members. STAAMP is one of the first locations in San Antonio to receive and administer the one-dose shots.
“Now [that] I have the vaccine, going into work will be safer,” Briseno said. “It definitely feels more reassuring.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine became the third vaccine to enter the U.S. market after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization in February for the one-shot inoculation. It joins the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as production of all COVID-19 vaccines continues to ramp up.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was found to be 85% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 cases and 100% effective at preventing death by COVID-19 in its trial phases. STAAMP CEO and President Dr. Erika Gonzalez said she and her staff were glad to be getting Johnson & Johnson doses into San Antonians’ arms Tuesday morning.
“It is essential that we administer these life-saving vaccines to the teachers – our frontline heroes – preparing our youth in our community,” she said. “SAISD schools serve many underprivileged areas of our city, and we continue to prioritize the most at-risk communities with vaccine distribution.”
Throughout the pandemic, the south and southwest portions of San Antonio have experienced the most infections per capita. This makes it especially important to focus on distributing vaccines to these parts of the city, Gonzalez said.
According to recent statistics, only about 6% of Texans have received the vaccine despite Texas receiving the second biggest allotments in the country. With more shots coming onto the market, President Joe Biden has urged states to expand eligibility to teachers, support staff, and child care workers.
Last Wednesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services declared teachers and education staff eligible to receive vaccines, including Head Start staff and child care workers.
SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said many of the district’s teachers and staff have expressed a strong desire to get vaccinated. Martinez estimated that 25% of the district’s 8,000 employees will be vaccinated after this week, with only 5% having expressed concerns about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.
“Our zip codes have seen higher case numbers than those on the North Side of town,” Martinez said. “We want to get as many of our employees, and eventually as many of our students, vaccinated as possible.”
Councilman Robert Treviño (D1) came out to the vaccination event Tuesday to thank STAAMP and SAISD for their partnership. Treviño said he hopes to see more District 1 residents get vaccinated.
“There’s been a lot of confusion surrounding COVID-19, and Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders haven’t made things any clearer,” Treviño said. “We know science is behind these vaccines, and we hope to get more of them out into our community.”
With demand for the vaccine still greatly outweighing supply nationwide, Gonzalez added she is glad to see any doses making it into the San Antonio community, much less Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose shot.
SAISD staff members receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday expressed gratitude that they will not have to make time for a second vaccination appointment.
“It’s great we won’t have to worry about it again after today,” said Andre Eley, an SAISD technology and IT staff member.
Dr. Erika Gonzalez is a member of the San Antonio Report’s board of directors.