By Snehal Shinh
“Getting the vaccine not only makes me feel more protected, in that I know if I get COVID it won’t be as severe as if I didn’t have the vaccine, but also makes me feel like I’m doing my part to keep others protected – here at school and out in the community.”
Heidi Krause, one of many Math teachers at Valencia High School, expresses her thoughts on receiving the Coronavirus vaccine as a way to do her part in protecting those around her as the fight against COVID-19 rages on. The increased availability and accessibility of vaccines, as stated by Dr. Anthony Fauci, is expected to become more and more readily available. These vaccines made the possibility of returning to life before the pandemic achievable. Vaccines, previously prioritized for long-term care facilities, frontline essential workers, the elderly, and those with underlying health issues, have now been made available for teachers and staff.
While California counties are still required to organize 70 percent of their supplies for those who are 65 years old and older, the leftover 30 percent is divided among new sectors with 10 percent of those doses reserved for instructors, reported by Orange County Department of Education Newsroom “All OC school employees will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting March 1.” Many teachers and staff members throughout the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District have already gotten their first dose of the vaccine since the Tier 1B was opened up in Orange County.
The prioritization for teachers and staff was a vital decision as the District moves to combine both cohorts for in-person instruction. According to Richard McAlindin, the Executive Director and lead director overseeing this project for staff vaccination, the district was able to acquire two sources for the vaccine; one of which was through the federal program, Family Health Matters, and the other through Albertsons pharmacies. With vaccinations now opened for district-wide, teachers rushed to make appointments as soon as possible; this influx led to minor complications as many teachers described feeling as though they were on a scavenger hunt. Aside from initial complications, there were not any major hurdles in the project’s execution, as stated by McAlindin who takes pride in the fact, “[they] had a dedicated team committed to the initiative and I’m proud of their effort.”
In addition to minor hurdles, the Executive Director communicated that the school nurses in the district’s dedication to the cause made the distribution of vaccines significantly easier, asserting that, “they are an exceptional group of people who care about the health of our students and employees.” A large amount of credit goes towards these nurses that have played a huge role in administering vaccinations as safely as possible and their efforts are truly applaudable.
The Expectations and Teacher Thoughts
When asked about any expectations going forward with such a task, McAlindin expressed that “given that access to the vaccine was very limited initially, my expectation was that our employees would be excited that we could offer the vaccine at a District office location for anyone who was eligible to receive it.”; these expectations were met as many teachers voiced excitement in finally being able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Julie Walker, a Valencia language arts teacher, shares her thoughts in receiving the news, “I just missed the first round (those over 65) so I was VERY happy to hear that teachers would be in the second round.” Walker adds on stating that the district’s protocols are incredibly thorough when touching on combining cohorts, “I feel pretty safe with having had the vaccine and with the school district’s protocols, so I’m not too concerned.”
In regards to combining both cohorts, Krause adds, “Getting the vaccine hasn’t really changed my concerns about when cohorts are combined. The vaccine doesn’t make you immune. You can still get sick and you can still spread the virus. So we still have to be just as vigilant as before.”
While most teachers and staff on campus have received at least one dose of the vaccine, there are still those who have yet to receive the vaccine. Kiley Kendall, who has not received the vaccine, offered some of her thoughts, expressing how excited she is to be eligible for the vaccine, “I think the vaccine has given many teachers a sense of ease when in the classroom. Especially with in-person learning making a much needed comeback!”
Life is slowly, but surely, returning to normal, and teachers receiving the vaccine is a huge step in that direction. Huge efforts made by the district are ensuring a swift distribution of vaccines, making Valencia High School safer to return to for teachers and students alike.