Courtesy of the El Dorado County Office of Education

Laura Smith, a special education teacher at the El Dorado County Office of Education, will be vaccinated against Covid-19 on January 15.

Courtesy of the El Dorado County Office of Education

Laura Smith, a special education teacher at the El Dorado County Office of Education, will be vaccinated against Covid-19 on January 15.

With unpredictable vaccine supplies and lack of nationwide coordination, school districts across California are struggling to figure out how their teachers and other school staff can be vaccinated – and, just as importantly, when.

After health care workers and long-term care workers, teachers and other school staff will advance to the next phase (Phase 1B) of the Introduction of the state vaccine.

However, when they will actually be vaccinated will depend on how many doses are entering the state and available in each county, whether there are sites for vaccine distribution, and whether their counties have completed vaccinating health workers and nursing home residents in Phase 1A of California have rollout plan.

Interviews with school principals and district leaders reveal wide variations in vaccination of school staff in school districts in different parts of the state.

There is broad agreement on the importance of vaccinating school workers. To this end, earlier this month Governor Gavin Newsom moving teachers higher on the state’s vaccination schedule to get schools reopened. The California Teachers Association has stated that vaccination of school staff is important to keeping schools reopening safely, along with robust testing and tracing programs, improved ventilation systems, and cleaning of school grounds.

And many local school principals agree. “Vaccination is a critical step in our ongoing efforts to ensure students, teachers and school staff get back to school as quickly and safely as possible,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County principal.

However, Sonoma County is vaccinating medical workers in Phase 1A and has not yet vaccinated school staff. One problem, say Herrington and other superintendents, is getting only reliable information about vaccine availability.

In the first phase of the state vaccination plan for Covid-19, priority will be given to school staff as well as others in age groups and occupations with high risk in the following order:

Phase 1A: Healthcare workers and long-term care residents

Phase 1B: People aged 65 and over, school staff and child carers, rescue workers and employees in the food and agricultural sectors.

Phase 1C: People aged 50 to 64, people under 50 with underlying medical conditions, and government employees. Also includes those who work in the defense, energy, water and sewage, communications, chemical and hazardous materials, and financial industries.

“The states do not have a perfect understanding of the volume of care they are receiving,” said Austin Beutner, Unified Superintendent of Los Angeles, in an interview last week, alluding to some of the challenges California is facing. “At the same time, they are still trying to ensure that the rules of distribution take into account fairness, the impact on society and the health risk for the individual. This is a complicated Rubik’s Cube to solve. “

At the district level, the local health authorities are tasked with planning the dispensing of vaccines California Department of Public Health. In small counties, this could be as simple as having the county health officer sit down with the county school principal to set up some vaccination clinics. In larger counties, planning might require extensive coordination between the health department, the district education department, and officials from multiple school districts and charter schools.

California’s counties with smaller populations have generally completed vaccinating health care workers faster and transitioned to school workers. Many teachers and school staff in Mariposa, Alpine, Lake, Mendocino, and El Dorado counties have already done so received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. But like a few larger counties River bank also vaccinate teachers.

The shortening of the school reopening schedule is the time it takes for the vaccine to fully protect staff from the virus. To be fully vaccinated, each person must have an initial vaccination and then a booster shot three to four weeks later. It is expected that recipients will be fully protected by the vaccine one week after the last vaccination.

El Dorado, a county east of Sacramento with a total population of 193,000 people and 3,500 school employees, is ahead of many in the state. School staff in the county received the first doses of the vaccine last week. While it will likely take until mid-February to get all of the school workers who want vaccinated, the schools superintendent Ed Manansala is optimistic.

“The feeling of hope and promise in El Dorado County has changed this week,” he said. “When you see that people in our sector – education – have access to vaccinations, that’s good news.”

Things are even further ahead Alpine County, the most sparsely populated county in the state. A single vaccination clinic for the 70 school employees on the east side of the district and another for vaccinating the 20 educators on the west side of the district were all that was required to vaccinate all willing school employees against Covid-19 in the first week of January. A majority of the employees – 86% – chose to have the vaccination.

In Los Angeles Unified – by far the largest school district in the state with around 600,000 students and 49,000 employees – the challenges are immeasurably greater. Superintendent Beutner, however, said the district was “uniquely located” to open vaccination clinics on school sites as soon as vaccines become available.

District schools are accessible to the community and have the security, cooling, electricity, toilets and space necessary to use them as vaccination centers, Beutner said. The district also has 450 registered nurses, 120 licensed professional nurses and health care providers who have participated in the district’s Covid-19 testing program and who can provide vaccinations.

An established district infrastructure, such as a transportation system that can move vaccines from freezers in district locations to refrigerators at school locations immediately prior to use, and an information system developed for covid testing that can be used to schedule and track vaccinations, would be useful in running vaccination clinics said Beutner.

on Monday Beutner sent a letter To local and state health officials asking them to immediately authorize the district to vaccinate not only school staff but also community members.

“There is a unique and important benefit to having Los Angeles Unified as a vaccination partner. That way schools can reopen as quickly as possible and in the safest possible way,” wrote Beutner.

Sacramento County’s school staff are also waiting for the county to complete Phase 1A of Covid-19 vaccinations. However, when vaccines become available, Dave Gordon, superintendent of Sacramento County’s schools, says a comprehensive plan will be needed to quickly vaccinate the county’s 20,000+ school employees.

Gordon has worked with the Sacramento County Department of Health and all 13 school districts and charter schools in the county on the plan, which is expected to be completed soon.

“I really want to stress that the governor’s interest is not to open a school here and there, but to do so on a large scale when we can,” said Gordon. “Our plan includes all school districts in the county and charters.”

The plan calls for all school staff to be vaccinated within a certain period of time, Gordon said.

Mark Billingsley, a computer science and digital media teacher at the middle school in the San Juan Unified School District, Sacramento, is desperate to be vaccinated against Covid-19 so he can return to class.

“We all want to be on campus and we all know the value of face-to-face learning,” he said. “If a vaccine gets us back to campus that much faster, I’m all for it.”

Even success stories like El Dorado County, one of the few That makes progress in vaccinating his teachers and underscores the randomness of the vaccination landscape at the moment.

School principals thought they had about a month to put together a vaccine roll-out plan for school staff when they met on Jan. 8 to start the process. On the following Monday afternoon, the education office was alerted by the District health department that the vaccine was available and began working on a plan that all 15 school districts could use. The district superintendents met on Tuesday to discuss the plan. Teachers were vaccinated that afternoon.

Officials from the El Dorado County Office of Education developed a template that districts could follow. First, educate staff with fact sheets about Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, as well as videos narrated by doctors. Second, send out a survey to gauge employee interest in vaccinations. Third, provide information on how to get vaccinated at a public health clinic or Safeway pharmacy.

District officials also asked school districts to designate a person to be the point of contact for the district and to compile a table listing employees by school location and vaccinating the names and contact information of anyone interested. Districts also have a process in place to notify staff when vaccination appointments are available.

Manansala is proud of the vaccination program the county has put together and he hopes the template can be used by others. His office has already helped Lake Tahoe Community College start a similar program across the county.

“That will happen in every county, right? Suddenly it will be that the vaccines are here. “ Said Manansala. “And then it will really matter how districts and county offices implement it.”

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