Tre Clayton, a fourth grade teacher at Markham Elementary School received a COVID-19 vaccination.
Tré Clayton, a fourth grade teacher at Markham Elementary School, received a COVID-19 vaccination because he was eager to return to the classroom. Credit: Amir Aziz

Sign up for our free newsletter

Free Oakland news, written by Oaklanders, delivered straight to your inbox.

Thousands of Alameda County educators and childcare workers became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in February as part of an effort to quicken the safe reopening of schools.

Tré Clayton is a 25-year-old teacher at Markham Elementary in deep East Oakland who was eager to return to the classroom to help his fourth grade students. He signed up and received the vaccine in March at the Coliseum and volunteered to return to his school early, on March 30. 

The Oaklandside talked with Clayton, who also serves as the executive director of 2COACHU, a local nonprofit organization that promotes mental and physical wellness in Oakland youth. Clayton, an Oakland native, admitted that while the newness of the vaccine made him apprehensive, his desire to return to the classroom and regain some sense of normalcy outweighed his nervousness. 

Why did you decide to get vaccinated?

As an educator, I’m seeing how the impacts of virtual learning are affecting our most marginalized kids. This is going to be a long thing to recover from, academically, financially, and for social-emotional recovery. The quickest way for us to get there is herd immunity. 

I’m really just doing it for other people. I’m a pretty healthy 25-year-old male, and I think I most likely would have a good shot at my body defending against COVID. For the most part, it’s for others. 

How did you get an appointment and what was the shot like?

The process was really simple. I went onto myturn.ca.gov, answered the questions to determine eligibility. Then you put in your zip code, find the closest place, bring the necessary documents. They didn’t ask for my documents to prove that I was a childcare worker. It was very simple and straightforward. We may have received access codes but I didn’t need it. I made an appointment for that same day and was able to schedule one three hours later. The website is a bit glitchy at the high volume hours, like weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I also signed my brother up, who works for a nonprofit and is in childcare as well. 

How did you feel after the shot? 

You definitely feel the side effects. Personally, I felt a little nervous because you’re putting faith in other people, you’re putting faith in the government, and sometimes it’s hard to put faith in people you don’t know. You don’t know that it’s going to work or whether the side effects are going to harm you in any way. Aside from the actual side effects, there was a little bit of worry. Both times, the arm I got the shot in was really sore. I experienced lightheadedness and dizziness the first time around, and then some slight fever and chills the second time around. The day after the shot is the worst day. I was pretty much back to normal two days afterwards. 

It’s kind of liberating, in a way. You feel free from the potential of really getting sick. It just feels like we’re in this together. We’re either going to reach herd immunity or it’s going to be survival of the fittest. I feel like I’d much rather have herd immunity, and I did my part. 

What would you say to anyone in your community who’s nervous or hesitant or unsure about getting vaccinated?

There’s two ways out of this pandemic: herd immunity, or survival of the fittest. I empathize with people who are nervous. I was raised as an anti-vax kid myself. I understand the fear of having faith in something that’s extremely new. I understand your fear, and you have to make a determination for yourself: does not getting the shot outweigh the potential where we’re going to have a survival of the fittest approach? Where we’ll see whose body can take it and whose can’t? I personally don’t think that’s the best way. Let’s get the vaccine. Weigh it out for yourself.

I’m proud to do my part, for the potential that we’ll see some normalcy again. I couldn’t care less about the partying and clubs, I just want these kids to get the education they need at this very pivotal moment. I’m an elementary school teacher. This is such a crucial time in their education, a necessary foundation for the rest of their time in academics and the workforce. They’re building really strong skills and habits that they need to transfer on for other parts of their lives. And they’re missing it right now. Education is not in a good place right now. I’m in the hood, and the kids I’m working with already have so much against them. They need every advantage they can get. 

Ashley McBride reports on education equity for The Oaklandside. She covered the 2019 Oakland Unified School District teachers’ strike as a breaking news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. More recently, she was an education reporter for the San Antonio Express-News where she covered several local school districts, charter schools, and the community college system. McBride earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, has held positions at the Palm Beach Post and the Poynter Institute, and is a recent Hearst Journalism Fellow.