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Free clinic at school gives Denver migrant students a shot, or up to 8 if needed

Free clinic at school gives Denver migrant students a shot, or up to 8 if needed
Free clinic at school gives Denver migrant students a shot, or up to 8 if needed 03:08

As the City of Denver shelters more than 4500 migrants from the southern border, there's been an increase in incidents of chickenpox.

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment says 75 cases of chickenpox have been reported in the last 30 days across Denver's migrant shelters.

The department has been working to quarantine people in hotel rooms until they're no longer at risk of spreading the virus.

"McMeen in the Middle" is our exclusive series on how one Denver Public School is responding to a surge in the enrollment of migrant students.

DPS has registered more than 2200 migrant students since August and the number continues to grow.

McMeen Elementary recently held a free clinic to ensure the newcomer students are up-to-date on their school-required vaccines.


"So tonight we have an immunization clinic, specifically targeting our families that are brand new to the United States," said Miriam Cavender, the school nurse for McMeen.

A line snakes out the gym door and down the hallway.

There is high interest in receiving free vaccinations from Denver Health.

Covid shots, and all those designed to prevent childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio, and hepatitis A and B.

"You got this. Tu es fuerte," Cavender said to 3rd grader Cristian Gamez, as she tried to comfort him.

Gamez is newly arrived from Venezuela and has just learned he's getting 8 vaccines.

Not uncommon since some of the new students either haven't been immunized or can't present proof.


Cavender said she's learned from some families, "'We lost our documentation as we were fleeing where we were living.' So what we have to do a lot of times in those circumstances is just kind of start from scratch, act like they never had vaccines in the past."

Gamez's mom Wendy Alvarado told us in Spanish, "He thought it was just one vaccine and he was excited. Just one vaccine is fine, but then they told him it was actually 8. He changed completely and became very nervous."

Nurse Cavender says the work is ongoing to ensure the new students have access to resources.

Dental care is another major concern among the students who may have endured years long journeys to get to the US.

"What we're seeing is just intense decay of those teeth," Cavender said. "We can't expect these kiddos to learn if they're not feeling the best."

The sheer number of kids at the school Cavender says is contributing to a rise in respiratory illness.

She said, "A lot of families who have not been used to a school system yet. 'When do I bring my student to school, when do I not? They don't have a fever but they're coughing really hard. Do I send them do I not?'"

Alvarado says the schools in Venezuela have become deplorable.  The attention her son is getting at McMeen gives her hope for his future.


She said, "A lot of attention, the teachers are very attentive and they are constantly sending us emails all the time notifying us of all the activities that are going to happen here, super good, I like it a lot."

He's feeling sore. But in the end Cristian Gamez could not have been braver.

Surprised himself he didn't cry.  His mom and the school's nurse thankful, he's ready to learn.

McMeen is still in need of winter coats for elementary age students.

The Denver Public Schools Foundation has also set up a fund to help schools like McMeen support migrant students and their families. Learn more here:

The DPS Foundation will host a virtual event about the Newcomer Student & Family Fund, and ways to support the migrant students on January 18th from noon to 1pm. Register here:

We'll continue to report on McMeen's response to the new enrollment.

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