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Education

Hundreds Of San Antonio Educators Will Be Vaccinated This Week

 A nurse practitioner administers a dose of flu vaccine in Key Biscayne, Fla.
Murad Sezer/REUTERS
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A nurse practitioner administers a dose of flu vaccine in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Hundreds of school employees have appointments to receive the coronavirus vaccine this week in San Antonio.

The appointments provided by the University Health hospital system are the first vaccine distribution in Bexar County reserved for educators.

Texas’s current vaccine guidelines don’t prioritize teachers or other essential workers, but many school employees qualify for the state’s 1B category because they’re over 65 or have a chronic health condition.

Instead of opening up appointments to the general public this week, University Health leaders said in a statement they decided to direct their latest shipment to subsets of the large population of people in the 1B category “because of the limited number of doses available” compared to the overwhelming demand.

University Health spokesperson Shelley Kofler said the hospital system received 7,800 doses in the latest shipment. At least 2,500 doses were set aside for nine local school districts, with the remaining doses directed to University Health patients who are either “from underserved areas of the community” or “are especially vulnerable because of their medical conditions.”

A Step Toward Peace Of Mind

The Edgewood Independent School District was allocated 100 vaccines, enough to inoculate a little over 12% of the district’s 800 teachers.

Edgewood Superintendent Eduardo Hernández said the appointments were a substantial first step towards ensuring all of his employees are protected from the virus.

“We want to make sure that our teachers have peace of mind that we are doing everything possible, given a pandemic that we have no more control (over) than anybody else does,” Hernández said, adding that he hoped more families will feel comfortable sending their children back to in-person learning once most teachers are vaccinated.

“We want to make sure that we have them with us, because there are implications for not just the academic (well-being). There are also implications for the emotional well-being of students. And, of course, their everyday (needs),” Hernández said. “There's a lot of food challenges and instability in our neighborhoods, and we want to make sure that our kids are fed and that their families are fed too.”

Districts Decide How To Divvy Up Doses

University Health left it up to Edgewood and the other eight districts to decide which of their employees would receive the vaccine first.

Hernández said he scheduled appointments for the first 100 teachers who qualified, either due to age or a documented health condition.

Judson ISD spokesperson Nicole Taguinod said her district received 230 doses and gave priority to “teachers who work directly with students that have special needs and students who are required to come to school in-person to prepare for specific certifications as part of their education plan.”

Northside, North East, East Central, Harlandale, Southwest, Alamo Heights and San Antonio ISDs also received vaccines of varying amounts depending on the size of the district.

Northside, which serves more than 100,000 students, received 1,050 doses. SAISD, which has more than 40,000 students, received 490.

Toni Thompson, SAISD’s associate superintendent of human resources, said her district sent out a survey to all employees to find out if they were interested in the vaccine and if they qualified under the 1B category.

“We ended up with at least 1,500,” Thompson said, adding that the district’s 490 slots filled up 15 minutes after they told the priority group vaccines were available.

Thompson said SAISD’s goal is to get enough vaccines for 8,000 employees and workers who regularly enter their buildings.

“Teachers and others who are on campuses (and) around children and just around other adults need that protection,” Thompson said. “We want to be able to have as many children attend school in person as parents would like to have attend.”

In addition to the vaccines from Metro Health, Thompson said SAISD is in talks with South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals to provide employees with vaccines.

“When that happens, we'll probably manage this as a vaccine clinic that we will set up ourselves… at a common site like the Alamo Stadium,” Thompson said.

Advocating For A Greater Supply Of Vaccines

Thompson said SAISD anticipates it taking a few months to vaccinate all of its employees, depending on how much vaccine is made available. Once that is accomplished, she said the district plans to facilitate vaccine distribution to parents and other family members.

“Whether it means getting school buses into communities so that parents could be transported to Wonderland (Mall) or the Alamodome, or whatever that might look like, we certainly want to also be part of that to facilitate the access to the extent that we can,” Thompson said.

Both city and school officials have contacted state leaders to request a priority vaccination for teachers, so that teachers who aren’t in the 1B category can also be vaccinated.

“We're going to continue to advocate because we want to see our kids back in school, but we want to be responsible too. And I want our teachers to feel a little more at ease when they come to work,” Hernández said.

In the meantime, University Health said it planned to provide doses to other school districts as more vaccines become available.

“Even as we do our best to equitably distribute the very limited amount of vaccine we receive, we continue to advocate for more doses, as we know many people in this large 1B phase are anxious to be vaccinated as soon as they can,” University Health leaders said.

Thompson and Hernández said an important part of the vaccination process would also be building trust and providing access to information so that more employees and community members feel comfortable getting the vaccine.

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