RICHMOND, Ind. — More than 25 teachers in Wayne County have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday. The county health department added school staff to its standby list in case they had any unused doses at the end of the day.
Teachers as a group are not eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment right now in Indiana. When the state changed its allocation plan, it meant school staff had to wait longer than other groups, such as police officers.
In the original vaccine allocation plan, police and school teachers were in Phase 2. Now police officers are in Phase 1-A and the Phase 1-B groups eligible to receive the vaccine are Hoosiers 70 and older.
Last week, Wayne County health officials asked its schools to reach out to any teachers who may be interested in being on that list. The schools then compiled a list for standby doses.
“Some evenings, we have only one or two. Others we may have as many as nine,” said Christine Stinson, executive director of the Wayne County Health Department. “By having a standby list, our clinic has zero wastage.”
Right now, their standby list is full. A little more than 100 school staff are on it.
Stinson said Hoosiers who have comorbidities are also on the waiting list. More than 40 people, other than teachers, have also received a call to get an unused COVID-19 dose.
“At the end of the night, if we puncture the vial to give two people a dose then that means we have eight doses that we have to find an arm to put it in,” Stinson said.
Once someone on the standby list is called, the person has 30 minutes to get to the clinic to receive the shot.
George Philhower, superintendent of Western Wayne Schools, understands why Indiana changed its original plan to administer vaccines by age. He is very appreciative that the county health department decided to include teachers on a waiting list. Philhower received his first shot of COVID-19 vaccine last Friday.
“Our hope is that it makes it a little easier to keep our doors open as positivity rates go down,” he said. “We will have a higher percentage of students and staff at our schools every single day.”
Philhower said Western Wayne Schools has not experienced any spread of the virus within their schools. They have been able to stay open since August.
“I can’t imagine how difficult of a decision it would be to decide who gets the vaccine,” he said.
The Wayne County Health Department’s vaccine clinic has been open for more than one week, and Stinson said they have not wasted a dose. Stinson said that is the goal.
“We already have a really good working relationship with our schools. We have seen how hard it has been and how much we want to keep our schools open through this,” said Stinson.
“Could we have done a different group and it would have been appropriate? Sure. There’s a million ways we could have done a standby list,” she said.
The county health department hopes they never have to get through their waiting list.
“That before we ever get to 200 or some people on a standby list, doing two and eight doses a night, that the state will get a large allotment of the vaccine,” Stinson said.
Over in Marion County, the public health department said they have averaged about three unused doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the end of each clinic. Those doses are currently being given to MCPHD workers who are considered to be frontline.
The Hendricks County Health Department is planning to utilize a waiting list of only people in the eligibility groups.