Betting may now be legal in Tennessee, but all bets are off when it comes to distribution of vaccines for protection against the coronavirus.
This includes teachers and other staff in school districts and schools across the state. Educators are in the 1b category in the priority list for individuals to receive the vaccine. They were moved to a higher category by the Tennessee Department of Health recently, just behind health care workers and first responders in Phases 1a1 and 1a2 and people 75-years-old and older.
While individuals in Tennessee who staff schools and child care centers may know where they’re situated priority-wise, the timeline for getting a jab in the arm is a little less certain.
“It really is dependent on how many doses we can get into the county [from the state health department],” Gary Anderson, executive director of COVID Response for Williamson County Schools, said Thursday night at the district’s school board work session.
Anderson, who retired from the Board of Education and began his new job with WCS at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, was responding to board member Rick Wimberly’s question on when teachers could expect to begin the vaccination process.
WCS Safety and Security Director Mike Fletcher, who works closely each day with Williamson County Emergency Management and the county’s health department, responded with a note of cautious optimism.
“We’re really close to being set up and ready to go,” he said. “But first and foremost, the state has to open that 1b category; then we would be able to order vaccines.
“I do not believe it would be before Feb. 1, but would like to believe it would be around that time that we could potentially start to give those vaccines. But there are no guarantees.”
Others are of the thought it could be later than February. David Snowden, director of schools for the Franklin Special School District, said recently he understands in conversations with health officials it could be early March before educators can get vaccinations.
“That’s a little disappointing,” Snowden said at the FSSD Board of Education meeting Monday night. “[Doses] are just not coming in in large enough numbers. …
“It looks like it’s going to be a little bit of a wait. We’re still working through the process of applications and point of delivery in our school district and we’ll continue that process.”
Regardless of when teachers might begin getting vaccinated, WCS Superintendent Jason Golden is optimistic most will make the choice to do so. He said at Thursday’s work session there were 2,300 staff members expressing interest in getting the vaccine in December, and more have agreed to since.
“We really do encourage [teachers] to get the vaccine,” Golden said. “We don’t require it, but I would like everybody to consider it. if [they] need to talk to [their] doctor about it, then talk to [their] doctor and get prepared for that possibility.”
Golden is also hopeful the school district can establish a particular site and be a provider of the vaccine.
“Our nursing staff, Mike Fletcher and Gary Anderson have been working on the details of that application process, which includes having a doctor or pharmacists sign off and monitor the process,” Golden said.
“We’re hopping that we can become a site so that when the time comes we can efficiently take care of our folks. The logistics of getting folks in and out even at the health department are significant, and we feel like if we can do it ourselves, it’s going to speed things up and be a good service to our staff.
“This should decrease the spread of the virus once we get a substantial number of our staff members with the vaccine, and we expect it to improve staffing. But the real benefit that we’re looking forward to is health, to give that extra health protection to our teachers and to our staff.”
Click here to view Thursday’s complete work session.