Seven-year-old Ysenia was the first of more than 1,100 kids expected to receive Pfizer’s pint-sized COVID-19 shots Thursday at University Health’s vaccine clinic at the Wonderland of the Americas mall.

She looked worried as a health care provider inserted a syringe in her left arm, but moments later showed off the bandaged site to clicking cameras as other kids all around her got their first dose of the vaccine, which earlier this week was approved for children 5-11 by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the Wonderland clinic remains walk-in for those seeking booster shots, University chose to go with an appointment system for the younger children’s shots. When the clinic reopened to offer boosters in late September, demand was so great that lines wrapped around the mall, said Elizabeth Allen, director of external communications for the hospital system.

“We didn’t want small children having to stand in line for hours,” she said. As of Thursday afternoon, the clinic was completely booked for children’s shots through next Friday. The clinic will stay open as long as demand remains high, Allen said. To make an appointment, visit wecandoitsa.com.

Any adult family member can accompany a child under 18, Allen said, and proof of age is required. That could be a birth certificate or a medical document that shows the child is old enough to get the shot.

Allen said the first day went smoothly. “We’ve been doing this a while, and we’ve got such a good team out there.”

She said staff decorated the space to be “warm and friendly,” with pictures of animals hung around the area at a child’s eye level. Mercy, a female Bernedoodle who serves as the hospital system’s therapy dog, also made an appearance Thursday, offering comfort to kiddos post-jab. Baskets of candy, trading cards, and other goodies were also on offer.

Children pet the therapy dog, Mercy, a female bernedoodle aged four at the University Health System vaccine clinic at Wonderland of the America's on Thursday.
Children pet Mercy the therapy dog at the University Health vaccine clinic at Wonderland of the Americas mall on Thursday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Mercy was Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez’s favorite part of the morning; he posted a picture of himself, Ysenia, and Mercy on Instagram, urging residents to come out and get vaccinated. Rodriguez was joined by Judge Nelson Wolff, who shook hands with parents and thanked staff. He, too, took to social media to urge vaccinations.

Almost 77% of Bexar County residents over age 12 are fully vaccinated, according to data on the city’s COVID dashboard, while just over 92% have had at least one dose. COVID-19 cases continue to drop from the delta surge that began in June and peaked in late August.

On Thursday, Metro Health reported a seven day average of 169 cases and 188 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Just over 5% of all hospitalizations are COVID-19 positive, while the positivity rate for tests is just 1.6%. Taken together, those statistics means the region’s risk level is low and improving.

At the clinic, Adrian, age 5, knew what he wanted. Even before he got his shot, he walked up to a photographer.

“I want a lollipop,” he said with a serious look on his face.

His father, Daniel Gonzales, guided Adrian onto his lap for the shot. Gonzales had him focus on the bowl of lollipops rather than the needle. Adrian uttered one tiny “ow.” Then the aspiring IndyCar driver hopped down, walked over to the bowl, and plucked out a blue lollipop.

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton is Story Editor for the San Antonio Report.