TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s been a slower than expected roll out for the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for educators.
With registration issues occurring earlier in the week and limited doses, extra days are being added to get school staff members vaccinated.
“I can’t put vaccines into peoples arms that we don’t have,” said Chief Medical Officer of the Pima County Health Department, Dr. Francisco Garcia.
Southern Arizona’s largest district, Tucson Unified School District, was originally set to have 780 staff members be vaccinated by Friday, Jan. 22nd. Now, the University of Arizona, who’s handling school vaccinations, said in a release Tuesday that only 132 K-12 teachers will receive the vaccine each day starting Tuesday, with 250 on Friday.
“We are proportionately allocating vaccine supply to the districts,” said Garcia. “So they only got approximately that much, much smaller districts got lower numbers.”
Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said because of this, PCHD will be vaccinating their staff through the weekend. But even then, they can’t guarantee they’ll get everyone done.
“They’re going to add the additional days to cycle through as much of the 780 slots as possible,” said Dr. Trujillo. “But they’ve guaranteed that we’re not going to lose our 780 slots even if they have to spill over into another week.”
Trujillo is hopeful to have all employees cycled through in the next 8-10 weeks, starting by prioritizing those 65+ and anyone working on campus. The goal is to eventually return to in-person learning. Trujillo said there are talks about a possible start date at the end of February or later, but nothing is set in stone.
“Anywhere after the rodeo break, the last week of February, on through the first of April. Or a direct return after spring break, which would be leading us off the last week of March,” said Trujillo.
Trujillo said it will be a staggered approach, with kindergarten through 3rd grade returning first. Then, 6th graders due to the importance of the start of a middle school career. Then finally, with the soon-to-be-grads.
“Then 12th graders. To give us semblance of a final senior year experience to the seniors of this district.”
Trujillo and the governing board agreed that they cannot require employees to be vaccinated due to potential lawsuits.
“If there is an injury from the vaccine it is not going to be covered by workers compensation as an eligible event for coverage,” said Trujillo.
But getting large groups of staff vaccinated will hopefully lead to a safer return to the classroom.