Efrat Gabay, MPH, senior program manager of UTHealth Houston School of Public Health’s All for Them vaccination project, waited for the students at Goose Creek CISD’s Ross S. Sterling High School to think about her initial question to kick-start their conversation.
She had asked the group of Career Academy for Future Educators and Health Science Academy Ambassadors a hard one: “Who knows what recommended vaccines children and adolescents receive?”
During a pause following a correct answer — the flu shot — Gabay reframed her question.
“Who in here has ever had chicken pox?” she asked. While Gabay and all the other adults in the room raised their hands, only a couple of the 13 students raised theirs as well.
“That’s because there’s now a vaccine for that,” Gabay said.
The All for Them team was on campus for student outreach ahead of the free vaccination clinic held at Sterling High School on April 11. That afternoon, students learned about the upcoming clinic, the importance of the vaccines offered, and career paths in public health.
“Engagement opportunities with groups like All for Them are vital because it shows students real-world applications of their studies and interests,” said Bess Elmore, Academy Ambassadors sponsor and teacher. “These students were able to see public health officials at work, advocating for vaccinations. They also learned about the importance of educating others about important health matters and statistics.”
Meeting with this group of students represents one of many outreach efforts that All for Them has organized at high schools throughout Goose Creek CISD.
All for Them research coordinators Sarai Saldana and Mayra Aguilar McBride visited with Sterling High School students during their lunch break, chatting with them about the upcoming clinic and answering their questions.
“Our team has had to think about innovative ways to reach students at the high school level since this is our first time serving students whose ages range from young teenagers to adults,” said Saldana, who leads clinic coordination for all Goose Creek CISD campuses. “We highly encourage students to ask questions about vaccines and our clinics.”
During the 2022-23 school year, All for Them coordinated free vaccination clinics for Goose Creek CISD students at 12 junior and high school campuses — including a spring break clinic that was open to all junior and high school students and their siblings.
Clinics at the high school level have given the All for Them team opportunities to chat with and educate students on a more personal level, like during the Academy Ambassadors meeting.
“We recognize that high school students, especially seniors, are getting to the age where they should start thinking about being responsible for their health and making health decisions that include staying current on their immunizations,” Gabay said. “We find in talking with them that most students don’t know what vaccines they should already have at their age or why the vaccines are important, so our outreach efforts help to bridge that gap between knowledge and taking action. This way, the teens have the motivation to talk with their parents and get parental permission (for minors) to get vaccines they may be missing through our clinics.”
All for Them clinics offer Tdap, HPV, meningococcal, influenza, and any other childhood and adolescent vaccines students may need. Parents are welcome to attend the clinics, and written consent is required beforehand if parents are unable to attend.
Saldana has enjoyed her conversations with Goose Creek CISD high school students, especially about how the HPV vaccine can prevent six types of cancer — and how that can impact their health in the future.
“I am always amazed at how thoughtful and curious these kids are,” she said. “They can be so inspiring!”
The All for Them team looks forward to continuing to support Baytown families in getting and keeping their students healthy. The team will host free summer clinics for all Goose Creek CISD junior and high school students — and their siblings — in June and August. Those who are interested can find the dates for these clinics at AllForThemVaccines.com when they become available. The All for Them team will also post updates on its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels.
“I would love parents to know that we all want the same thing for their child: for them to live a healthy and fulfilling life,” Saldana said.
All for Them is funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT; PP200017). All for Them Baytown is supported by Be Well™ Baytown, an initiative of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center sponsored by ExxonMobil.