CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) — As access to the COVID-19 vaccine opens up to teachers, some East Tennessee school districts decided to bring the shots to their staff directly.
The Anderson County School District hosted its vaccination clinic Friday at Anderson County High.
They were able to do so for several reasons; they got approval from the state to host its own clinic, school nurses were trained to help vaccinate and students were learning virtual so teachers could receive the vaccine all on the same day.
“I just assigned some things for them to do on Google Classroom today, and so it’s just a one-day virtual process,” Emily Daves, a 5th grade teacher at Norris Elementary, said.
Daves was grateful the district hosted the clinic, because it meant easy access and she knew the people offering the vaccine.
“It’s a little bit nerve wracking I guess, but, yeah, it’s good to be with people you know and nice nurses that we’re familiar with, so it was probably the best situation to be able to get it done,” Daves said.
Dr. Tim Parrott, Anderson County Director of Schools, said having the clinic on site was the best option for everyone involved.
“We knew that the health department was really overloaded, and the state said if we wanted to go through and jump through all the hoops we could do it ourself,” Parrott said.
That’s what they did with a lot of help from the district’s Director of Nursing, Kathryn Price.
Parrott said they went through the hoops to become a provider because it was easier to have staff come to one place.
That meant they would all be vaccinated more quickly, too.
“I think what we were concerned about the other way would be is, if they go and you get 10 here, and 10 here and 10 here, it’s going to take them into the summer to get that done,” Parrott said.
He said his next wish, whenever it may be, is for students to get vaccinated so they can all go back to normal schooling.
“There’s still not a lot of data, even if I have my shots, can I contract it, or can I give it to somebody else? So, we’re still going to be, proceed with caution,” Parrott said.
About 800 teachers and staff received the Moderna vaccine on Friday.
Daves said she had a few reasons to get the vaccine.
“So, I’m doing it for my kids, my family, my friends and to just hope we can return to some normalcy,” Daves said.
She said it’s been a blessing the district has been able to keep up with in-person learning for most of the 2020-2021 school year.
Parrott said, in fact, the district now has only about 700 students learning online.
“Now, I can tell you this, we spent a lot of extra money this year,” Parrott said.
Parrott said they hired a full-time nurse for every school in the district, as well as provided several other safety features to help limit the spread within the classrooms.
The district got some financial help from the state.
Daves said the district has done a great job upping the safety in the classroom.
She said she believes the vaccine will more so help her outside of the district.
“I haven’t felt unsafe and the kids have been super good about wearing their masks and sanitizing. And, so I do feel better about going out in public, I think, after this,” Daves said.
Both Daves and Parrott said Friday was a big day.
They feel one step closer to going back to some type of normalcy.
“It’s kind of like a light at the end of a tunnel,” Parrott said.
Students will go back to virtual learning when the district hosts the clinic for the second dose of the vaccine.
Union County brings vaccine to the teachers
On Friday, Union County also hosted a vaccination clinic on site.
Dr. Jimmy Carter, Union County Director of Schools, said about 300 staff members headed to Union County High to receive their first dose of the vaccine.
He said school nurses helped, and teachers were able to get their shots very quickly.
Carter said his shot was very painless.
He said the district went virtual starting on Wednesday because they weren’t sure when the vaccine would arrive, and wanted to give parents enough time in advance to plan for when it came.
He said the next clinic will be on the Friday before students head out for spring break.
Loudon County Schools staff receive vaccine Saturday
According to Mike Garren, Director of Schools for Loudon County Schools, his staff will be getting vaccinated on Saturday.
Employees will meet from 9 a.m. through 12 p.m. at Loudon Municipal Park.
Lenoir City Schools staff will be vaccinated at the same location from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Loudon County Health Department is hosting the event, but the district will provide school nurses to assist and expedite the process.
Garren believes about 350 Loudon County Schools employees will be vaccinated on Saturday.
Campbell County Schools plan to bring pharmacists to the district on Monday
Jennifer Fields, Director of Schools for the Campbell County School District, said employees will be able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination on March 1 and March 2.
Terry’s Pharmacy will be visiting each school in the district on those days.
“Terry’s Pharmacy was willing to offer this service to our staff as a courtesy to make the vaccination process as convenient as possible,” Fields said.
Students will not go to distance learning for the vaccine process.
Fields said staff will have someone to cover their class while they are being vaccinated.
She said that the district is prepared to go to distance learning for the second dose, “since side effects are much more likely to occur.”