FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Valley health leaders are working on getting more children vaccinated against COVID-19 before the school mask mandate is officially lifted later this month.
Kaiser Permanente provided a large grant to the Fresno County Office of Education to help with those efforts.
Fresno County has nearly 280,000 children, ages five to 17, eligible for the COVID vaccine. More than half of that population is between five to 11 years old.
However, county data for that age group shows less than 30% are vaccinated.
"The vaccination rate has been twice as slow as their slightly older peers," explained Olivia Kahn, a nurse practitioner with the Fresno County Office of Education.
While the county comes out of its recent Omicron surge and schools prepare to end mask requirements after March 11, those in education and health are taking action to get more younger children vaccinated.
Kaiser Permanente granted the Office of Education $95,000 to fund vaccination efforts.
Kahn said it's exciting to see schools return to some type of normalcy, stressing that vaccines will keep it that way. It'll also help new variants from forming.
"With the five to 11-year-old group, we want to be extra vigilant because of their close contact within school settings," she said. "The fact that while they're not at particularly high risk of severe disease, they are often in close contact with people who are."
The grant's goal is to remove any barriers families face, such as access to vaccines.
"Our mobile unit goes out into the community, specifically like the rural areas that don't have as good of access as everyone here in the city," explained nurse practitioner Tiffanie Sims, with FCSS. "So we go out to the schools, we set up, and we are providing incentives."
The vaccine is free. The focus is five to 11-year-olds, but other family members won't be turned away.
One mobile clinic is coming up in Selma on March 8, and the office of education's health services department is working with Fresno County school districts to set up more of them.
Parents are encouraged to reach out to their school district for dates and times of future vaccination clinics.