Ann Walker's exuberance as she bounced around the back-to-school vaccination clinic Tuesday was as obvious as her smile, even though she was wearing a mask.
Toting a box full of snacks for (mostly) compliant shot-takers, she seemed to be offering instructions, directing human traffic or talking to families every few feet as she moved through the cavernous space Kern County Public Health has set up inside the Kern County Fairgrounds for this year's drive.
A group of five children and their mom who made the trek from California City to get everyone caught up on their shots asked to take a selfie with Walker as the kids prepared to leave with small, colored bandages in place on their arms.
Walker duly reminded them to keep those limbs moving for the next few hours, which would help prevent any soreness.
Then, as they walked away, she pumped a fist and exclaimed, "Yes, another success story," to anyone in earshot willing to share her enthusiasm.
Back to school means long days over the next two weeks for Walker, as Kern Public Health's immunization coordinator, but she wouldn't have it any other way.
"One of the things I hate is on the first day of school, when the kids are all dressed up, and they have their little ponytails, and they're ready to go to school, and they (hear), 'Oh, you can't come in because you don't have all your vaccinations,'" she said, referring to the state law on vaccinations.
"So, I'm glad that we're here to be able to do that and get them their vaccine. Then, they can go right back to school," she added. "But yeah, I get excited.
"It is rewarding to be here, to provide the service to the kids and the parents," she said, as she explained the coordination of dozens of people from Kern Public Health and the teamwork involved to get about 1,000 children — and more than a few parents — vaccinated at the county's back-to-school clinic.
The first day of school for Bakersfield's two largest school districts, Bakersfield City and Kern High, is Aug. 14, and the Kern Public Health-run clinic will continue until noon Aug. 19.
And there's no time like the present to schedule the state-required vaccinations for any K-12 students in the family, said Michelle Corson, spokeswoman for Kern Public Health. Whether someone calls 661-321-3000 to schedule a visit or attempts a walk-in vaccination, there was plenty of space available as of Tuesday afternoon.
But the dynamic changes somewhat next week.
"We've encouraged people to make appointments. But typically, this week is slower," Corson said, referring to a large grouping of empty seats inside the fairgrounds Tuesday. "And the next week when school actually starts is when we get our rush. So what we're really trying to do is encourage families to come this week, get this taken care of and call and make an appointment."
The clinics are a great service as a "last resort option" for parents looking to get their children caught up because securing an appointment to see a family physician this time of year can be a real challenge, Walker said.
Bonnie Chamberlain, who was there to get her grandson Jace Chamberlain up to date on his vaccinations, called the county's clinic a "blessing."
"Jace had fallen behind on his vaccines and we needed to get them handled before school started," she said. "I'd been looking for a month to try to get them into a doctor, and I got a text from (Granite Pointe Elementary) that informed me about this setup."
For more information on the state's requirements for vaccines, click here.