BOSTON (WHDH) - A vaccination event hosted by the City of Boston to get children their COVID-19 boosters– as well as $75 gift cards– drew long lines Saturday.

The B Healthy Back to School Event was hosted by the Boston Public Health Commission. The organizers expected a turnout in the dozens at White Stadium, similar to past events. Instead, hundreds showed up.

“I’m just here to get vaccinated,” one attendee said. “I didn’t think it was gonna be a big (turnout).”

While there was an ample supply of vaccines, organizers said they did find themselves running out of gift cards at the time, though attendees were able to leave their contact info in order to receive a new round of gift cards via mail after the event.

The event also featured free haircuts, backpacks and books.

“About three-quarters of our Boston community has been vaccinated,” said Rachel Wilson, the president of CIC Health, which co-hosted the event. “Only about 49% of our children who are age 5 to 11 have been vaccinated, and that number is even lower for our Black and Latino community members, so our focus today is to get our 5-to-11-year-old schoolchildren vaccinated… so that when they go back to the classroom, they’re as safe as they possibly can be.”

One parent said getting vaccinated is key to maintaining a balance between work and home life.

“The difference is if they get COVID and (they’re) not vaccinated, they miss seven days of school, if they’re vaccinated, it’s only two,” said parent Rosie Perez.

Some students said they’ll also feel more comfortable at school if they get this booster, which better protects against new omicron variants of the virus.

“To be safe, I want to be able to take it even if they’re going to give me $75 or not,” said student Hailey Bones, who’s in the ninth grade.

The money didn’t hurt, though.

“We wanted to get vaccinated, and we were thinking $75 a pop wold be worth the wait,” said Travis Lee, who was waiting in line for his vaccine. He said he’d been waiting for over two hours before deciding the wait wasn’t worth the money.

Tempers flared at the front of the line as the line barely budged for a while.

Josh Calianos observed that the organizers seemed short-staffed, which he called “a shame” because he could tell those working the event were working hard.

Without a megaphone, he added, he noticed it’s hard to direct people to the appropriate places.

Wilson of CIC Health said the organizers moved some of the entertainment activities out to the waiting area to keep people entertained, and she also hoped to get more vaccinators to the site to keep lines moving faster.

They called in a Boston Police detail as well as back-up vaccination staff to work the stations during breaks, vowing to get to every person in the line.

Despite the day’s setbacks, officials said they’ll plan more events in the future, given the high turnout Saturday.

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