COVID vaccine start with Ohio educators next week

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Ohio school employees are eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine shots starting Monday, but when they get it, where they get it, and how many of them get it will vary from school to school and county to county.

The Ohio Department of Health says COVID vaccine will be administered to educators who want it in 10 of Ohio’s 88 counties by next week, including Montgomery and Butler counties locally. Middletown schools were able to get a jump on the process this week.

ODH spokeswoman Melanie Amato would not specify how those counties were chosen to go first, saying only that there’s not enough vaccine to accommodate every educator the first week. ODH hopes to have about 91,000 school employees receive their first of two COVID vaccine shots next week.

“The governor has said the goal is for every teacher to have the opportunity to receive their first dose by March 1,” Amato said, calling it a rolling process. “The logistics of coordinating providers and public, private, charter, and career-tech schools are challenging.”

Gov. Mike DeWine said all schools will get notification by Friday on which week they will receive their vaccinations. He said the county by county approach helps to maximize the local capacity of vaccination partners.

County Educational Service Centers were asked to help schools with vaccine logistics. In Montgomery County, ESC Superintendent Shannon Cox and her team spent last week making sure public, private, charter and other schools were paired up with a vaccine provider.

Cox said about 60 of the county’s 75 schools and districts are working with Kroger Pharmacy, the state’s primary vaccine provider. Educators at those schools will receive their first dose Feb. 3-6 at six “point of dispensary” school sites spread around the county, then get their second dose Feb. 24-27.

Those sites will only vaccinate educators, while the health department and others will continue their rolling process of vaccinating the general public by age group.

“I told all of the Kroger (schools) which POD they’re assigned to on which days, starting Wednesday of next week,” Cox said. “We’ll replicate that schedule on the last week in February to do Round 2. We’re being told we’re getting the Pfizer vaccine thru Kroger, which means it’s a 21-day (break between doses) not 28-day.”

Cox said each school will get a link for their employees to go online individually and schedule a specific appointment time to show up for their vaccination. She said Kroger has already been doing this work in other states, so their operation is fairly streamlined.

Some schools are going with different vaccine providers, because of contracts or existing relationships. Miamisburg schools are working with Rite Aid, and employees will get their first vaccine dose Feb. 4-6 in afternoon/evening times, so it doesn’t disrupt the school day.

“We cannot determine if the second shot will be a 21-day or 28-day turnaround,” Miamisburg Superintendent Laura Blessing said. “We are told we will not know what brand of dose until they arrive, due to supply.”

Kettering schools are working with Walgreens, as they have for flu shots in the past, and employee appointments for the first vaccine dose will be Feb. 10-11 at Trent Arena, according to district spokeswoman Kari Basson. The second dose will be March 3-4 or March 10-11 depending on which vaccine the district gets. Wednesdays are normally remote learning days for Kettering, but Basson said those two Wednesdays will have no school at all.

Dayton Christian is working with Kettering Health Network, and Northmont schools are working with Premier Health. Both are waiting on confirmation of exact vaccine delivery days for employees. Northmont has confirmed theirs will be on a Friday, which are remote-learning days in the district.

Schools had to give ODH an estimate of how many of their staff will take the vaccine in February. Some people can’t take it for medical reasons and some wanted to wait longer. Cox said the data turnaround was fast, so the numbers are not perfect.

“We don’t have aggregate data, but the lowest we saw was 48% of (a school’s) staff agreeing to take it, and the highest was 98-99%,” Cox said. “The public schools polled the majority of their staff, and I would say unofficially, we’re looking at about 70-75%.”

Dave Larson, superintendent of the Miami County ESC, said the distribution process is developing daily, but he’s hoping Miami County schools get their first vaccine doses the second week of February. Of 18 schools/districts in the county, nine are working with Kroger and nine with Premier Health.

“Everything’s so fluid. The key for us is to be ready to go whenever we get vaccine in the county (for schools),” Larson said. “We’re still working on details like (in-school delivery or central sites). We’re meeting with Premier on Thursday, and they’re going to communicate with those districts what this will look like.”

Some smaller schools are working very locally on vaccination. Superintendent Chad Mason said his Cedar Cliff district is working with the CedarCare Pharmacy in town, because it will be easier for school staff to go there, rather than a county site farther away. But he said Thursday they were still waiting to learn their vaccination dates.

Cox said she mapped the six vaccine sites for the Kroger districts in Montgomery County to spread them around the county as best as possible.

“Some districts are going to have to travel farther than others. That’s been the hardest part,” Cox said. “Everybody wanted Kroger to come to them, but it’s just not feasible to get that done in time. The governor’s office said if we’re going to earmark these vaccines (for school personnel), we need to be able to use them in a timely manner.”

Cox said school personnel should pay attention to questions about allergies or underlying health conditions when they register for their appointment online. And she said school nurses will be at each vaccine site to observe people for any reaction immediately after they get the shot.

Cox said they continue to work on some issues — making sure there’s enough vaccine, building waiting lists to call in case there are shots left over at any vaccine site and how to adjust if people are sick on the day of their vaccine appointment.

“If we’ve learned anything in last 10 months, it’s that there’s no guarantee about tomorrow,” Cox said. “There are going to be hiccups, but a lot of things will go right. And it gets us closer to being beyond this pandemic.”

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