The Shotz-2-Go initiative brings pediatric vaccinations to public schools
By Joey Garcia and Janette Neuwahl Tannen
Photograph by Tom Salyer
he brightly colored van displaying the smiling faces of children cruises throughout the Miami-Dade County school system conveying a simple message: Get vaccinated.
The Shotz-2-Go Pediatric Mobile Unit is the public face of an initiative run by Miller School pediatrician Lisa Gwynn, D.O., M.B.A., M.S.P.H., that gives children, parents and teachers access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
Since launching in May, Shotz-2-Go has made considerable progress in getting children vaccinated. The van visits more than 200 schools, and the vaccine rate in children aged 12 to 15 is up 25%. Through partnerships with the Children’s Trust and the county school districts, Shotz-2-Go has reached underserved communities by participating in health fairs and community events, and expanding to more schools.
“The late summer vaccine increase was the result of kids needing to be back in school and parents wanting to keep their kids safe.” Dr. Gwynn said.
She and her team were well prepared when emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines was approved for children ages 5 to 11. They have also been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study vaccine hesitancy among teachers. Three vans are on the road, including two new mobile clinics and the Shotz-2-Go van, enabling the program to meet even more of the county’s pediatric health needs.
That includes helping reduce the health disparities in the U.S. that were highlighted by the pandemic. In particular, Latino children have six times the COVID-19 infection rate, and Black children twice the infection rate, compared to white children. Among the nation’s most severe pediatric cases of COVID-19, where a child has died, Black children have triple the death rate and Latino children have double the death rate compared to white children.
For parents who remain hesitant to vaccinate their child, Dr. Gwynn said she respects their concerns. In this case, however, the benefits to children outweigh the small risks that come with any new vaccine.
“The practice of medicine is based on science, and we never do anything that we feel would put children’s lives in danger,” Dr. Gwynn noted. “But until kids are vaccinated, the pandemic will not end. It’s just like measles and other diseases — we had to immunize kids to eradicate them.”