New challenges arise for educator vaccines

By Heather Bailey, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, March 8, 2021

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In a letter dated March 5, the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) outlined the continuing and new challenges they are facing in their effort to vaccinate the county’s school employee workforce.

“As with so many things in the age of COVID-19, the vaccination rollout is complicated and subject to changes and setbacks. These delays are disappointing for all of us as we know that getting school employees vaccinated is a top priority in order to safely reopen our schools,” the letter begins.

According to the letter, the state of California’s recently announced transition to the management of vaccines from county health departments to Blue Shield with a system called MyTurn has created a “dramatic and sudden change in how vaccines are allocated. Because of this, as well as winter storms in the Midwest, the county of Sonoma has received dramatically reduced allocations and is prioritizing second doses over first doses. Therefore, SCOE has not received its requested vaccine supply for the last three weeks.”

SCOE had to shutter its vaccine operations last week, but had planned on reopening them this week. Unfortunately, virus allocation for the coming week have fallen far short of expectations.

“For the week of March 8, we requested nearly 4,000 vaccines. However, we only received 1,100 — the amount needed to provide second doses to those school employees who already received their first dose. Due to these circumstances, we will unfortunately not be able to provide first doses at the SCOE clinic for the week of March 8,” the announcement said.

However, SCOE will not be canceling any currently scheduled appointments for the coming week because they able to secure a number of vaccine access codes which allow educators to make an appointment with Kaiser to receive a vaccination. These codes were issued to everyone who had an appointment at the clinic for their first dose of the vaccine.

Additionally, about 1,500 school employees across five school districts in the Santa Rosa area were provided vaccine signup codes to use in the state’s MyTurn system. These elementary school employees were selected because they were next in line in SCOE’s vaccine priority (Group B). Another 150 Petaluma-area staff are being vaccinated this weekend through Kaiser-Petaluma.

“We will continue to work with school districts, health agencies, and lawmakers to identify opportunities like this to secure vaccines,” said the letter.

As of Friday, March 5, the SCOE clinic has administered 4,200 vaccines. With the support of other local medical providers working alongside the SCOE vaccination clinic, nearly 6,000 Sonoma County educators have been vaccinated in the last three and a half weeks. This number includes educators from Cloverdale Unified, who received vaccinations through Alexander Valley Healthcare and Healdsburg Unified, who received vaccinations through Alliance Medical Center.

“Regardless of our successes to date, many educators remain unprotected and would like to be vaccinated. We know the lack of vaccine supply is a bitter disappointment for those elementary school employees yet to be vaccinated through the SCOE clinic,” continued the letter,” acknowledged the letter.

Vaccination of elementary school staff follows the completion of SCOE’s first priority tier — educators over age 70 and anyone serving children in person as of Feb. 8. They set prioritization for elementary school vaccines based on the following factors: clinic capacity — need to start small and scale up; virus hotspots within the community; socio-economic factors, and region (focusing on vaccinating all schools in a given region together).

SCOE states that once the vaccine is available, they have the capacity to administer 4,000 doses a week, and they are ready to resume their program of vaccinating educators at Rancho Cotate High School as soon as the vaccines are available.

However, they want to make clear that educators with other options should take them.

“In the meantime, we have continually encouraged school staff to get vaccinated through other means if options are made available, such as through MyTurn, your healthcare provider, CVS or a local clinic,” the letter said. “In some cases, community health clinics in parts of the county have offered to partner with their local school districts to vaccinate school staff in those areas. This is separate from SCOE and our prioritization, but we encourage and support it. The faster those staff get vaccinated, the faster we can move through our priority tiers.”

The letter is signed by Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Steven D. Herrington and Sonoma County Office of Education Vaccine Coordinator Jeff Harding.

This article was produced by Sonoma West Times & News, the hometown newspaper of Sebastopol and west county since 1889. See more news at sonomawest.com