Add To Favorites
Connecticut teachers and child care workers can begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines Monday. Here’s how it will work.
Hartford Courant - 2/23/2021
With Connecticut teachers, school staff members and child care workers of all ages allowed to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines as soon as Monday, here’s a look at exactly who will be eligible, how vaccine distribution plans may vary by community and potential complications that could slow down the vaccination process.
When will school staff and child care provider clinics open, and who can use them?
State officials expect to have the designated clinics up and running in districts starting Monday, but some local officials say it will take a few more days to work through planning and logistics. These clinics will be open to professional child care providers, bus drivers, teachers, paraeducators, custodial staff, food service workers, classroom volunteers, in-school administrative staff and any others who work in school buildings.
Overall, the state estimates about 160,000 people will qualify for access to the clinics. Gov. Ned Lamont said in a news conference Monday that he expects to have everyone who works in schools “vaccinated in less that a month.”
“We can’t do every school on March 1, that’s for sure, but [state Chief Operating Officer] Josh [Geballe] and [interim Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr.] Deidre [Gifford] reached out to all the superintendents ... told them to start preparing, so we can get the mobile vans into these schools, and we’ll see who’s getting ready to get going first, and we’ll be able to start within a week or so,” he said.
Do educators have to use clinics, or can they get the vaccine elsewhere?
According to a letter sent from the state health department to vaccine providers, school staff and child care providers can visit pharmacies, hospitals and mass vaccination sites to get their shots, but they should be encouraged to use their designated clinics.
“We’re hoping that most people will take the opportunity to participate in their dedicated clinic. We’re going to make that very easy for them,” Geballe said. “We’re hoping people will be patient and take guidance from their superintendent or their community about what those opportunities might look like and ... we can take pressure off some of the mass vaccination sites and other sites that will be available for the rest of the population.”
Are school staff members required to get the vaccine?
There are no state mandates requiring all educators to get the vaccine. Survey data collected by the Connecticut Education Association — the state’s largest teacher union — suggests about 80% to 85% want to get vaccinated as soon as possible, Don Williams, the association’s executive director, said Tuesday. The union expects some staff members may choose to wait a bit longer.
Geballe also recognized that some residents who fall within the educator and child care provider categories may not want to get the vaccine immediately. When asked if there would be public data available on how many teachers in each school have received the vaccine, he said the state has “not gotten that far yet.”
How will distribution plans differ from between towns?
While the state is assisting local officials in setting up the vaccines, actual distribution and timelines will vary by community.
“We’re working through the details now on how many specific clinics will be necessary. As you can imagine, in some of the larger cities there could be clinics dedicated to a specific school building or for a district,” Geballe said. “In some of our more rural parts of the state we’ll see some team work across multiple towns, multiple districts to do clinics together to get critical mass. Those details are being worked out right now. We’ll have more to share in the coming week or so.”
Williams said the process of vaccine delivery will “differ significantly” for each community. While rural districts will likely operate thorough in-school clinics or local health departments, “larger urban districts will probably enlist the support of other partners, perhaps even hospitals and other health care facilities and regional sites.”
“We know there’s going to be a variety of options depending on the district and how it’s delivered flu shots to staff in the past,” he said.
Charles Brown, director of the Central Health District — covering Berlin, Newington, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield — said his department had a call scheduled for Wednesday with officials from each school in the district to discuss operations, collaboration and sharing resources.
“For example, we have the availability of school nurses to help vaccinate their own staff,” he said. “It can be extensive. ... Within one school system, we’re looking at over 600 people, but not all of those 600 will want to get vaccinated. Some of them may also have already been vaccinated because ... they met a different criteria. That’s one of the things going into this that we’re going to have to really work with our schools to determine.”
What complications or challenges might slow down the process?
Enfield Superintendent of Schools Christopher Drezek said he and other administrators have been “locked up on calls for 48 hours trying to figure this out.”
“Obviously it’s wonderful and welcome news,” Drezek said. “We’re all extremely anxious to get rolling, but it’s the logistical side of trying to put together clinics that we’re all trying to work through.”
Drezek said the district is looking at operating in-school clinics, and he is willing to have students learn remotely for a day if needed in order to get staff vaccinated as soon as possible .
“I think everyone’s general concern is making sure there is an availability of doses,” he said.
According to Geballe, Connecticut’s state vaccine allocation increased this week from 59,000 to 72,000 doses.
“On top of those 72,000 doses, the federal pharmacy program has doubled to 23,000 doses,” he said. “So we’re at about 95,000 [first] doses that will be available this week [and] that’s going to continue on going forward.”
Regarding Lamont’s mention of vans, Brown said the health district has already discussed mobile vaccination teams. However, he said officials need to be very careful with how vaccines are handled, as some brands are more stable than others.
“The vaccine itself, we have to be very careful with, especially the Moderna [doses]. If you don’t handle it right, you could damage it. So, the traveling road show is a little harder to do with that particular vaccine,” he said. However, Brown said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which he hopes will soon be available and requires just a single dose, is much more stable than Moderna and would be better suited to mobile efforts.
“The only thing we’re limited by right now is vaccine supply. Everything else is I think a solvable problem,” Brown added.
Amanda Blanco can be reached at email@example.com.
(c)2021 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.