Courtesy of El Dorado County Office of Education
Laura Smith, a special education teacher at the El Dorado County Office of Education gets vaccinated for Covid-19 on Jan. 15.
This article was updated to include information about President Joe Biden's Covid-19 response plan.

An unpredictable vaccine supply and lack of statewide coordination has school districts across California struggling to figure out how to vaccinate their teachers and other school staff — and equally importantly, when.

After health care workers and staff at long-term care facilities, teachers and other school employees are included in the next phase (Phase 1B) of the state’s vaccine rollout.

But when they actually get vaccinated will depend on how many doses come into the state and are made available in each county, if there are sites to distribute vaccines and whether their counties have finished vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents in Phase 1A of California’s roll out plan.

Interviews with county schools chiefs and district leaders indicate wide disparities in how far along school districts in different parts of the state are in vaccinating school staff.

There is widespread agreement on the importance of vaccinating school employees. To that end, earlier this month Gov. Gavin Newsom moved teachers higher on the state’s vaccination list in an effort to get schools reopened. The California Teachers Association has said that vaccinating school staff is important to reopening schools safely, along with robust testing and tracing programs, improved ventilation systems and the cleaning of school campuses.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office as part of the “National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” released Jan. 21. In it, he asked states and municipalities to  to put a priority on vaccinating teachers with a focus on reopening schools.

And many local school leaders agree. “Immunization is a critical step in our ongoing efforts to ensure that students, teachers and school staff get back into the classroom as quickly and safely as possible,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County superintendent of schools.

Yet Sonoma County is vaccinating medical workers in Phase 1A and hasn’t yet vaccinated school staff. One problem, Herrington and other superintendents say, is just getting reliable information on vaccine availability.

“The states don’t have perfect visibility into the volume of supply they’re getting,” said Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner, in an interview last week, alluding to some of the challenges facing California. “And, at the same time, they’re still trying to make sure the rules for distribution take into account fairness, the impact on society, the health risk to individuals. That’s a complicated Rubik’s Cube to solve.”

At the county level, local departments of public health are charged with planning how vaccines are dispensed, according to the California Department of Public Health. In small counties, that could be as simple as the county health officer sitting down with the county school superintendent to set up a few vaccination clinics. In larger counties, planning could require extensive coordination between the health department, the county office of education and officials from multiple school districts and charter schools.

California’s counties with smaller populations have generally been quicker to complete vaccinating healthcare workers and move on to school employees. Many teachers and school staff in Mariposa, Alpine, Lake, Mendocino and El Dorado counties have already received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. But a few larger counties like Riverside are also vaccinating teachers.

Complicating the timeline for school reopenings is the time it takes for the vaccine to fully protect staff from the virus. To be fully vaccinated, each person must get an initial vaccination and then a booster shot three to four weeks later. Recipients are expected to be fully protected by the vaccine a week after the last vaccination.

El Dorado, a county east of Sacramento, with a total population of 193,000 people and 3,500 school employees, is further ahead than many in the state. School staff in the county began receiving their first doses of the vaccine last week. While it will likely take until mid-February to vaccinate all school employees who want it, county Superintendent of Schools Ed Manansala is optimistic.

“The sense of hope and promise in El Dorado County, it shifted this week,” he said. “When you start seeing people having access to vaccinations within our sector — the education sector — this is good news.”

Things are even further ahead In Alpine County, the state’s least populated county. A single vaccination clinic for the 70 school staff members on the eastern side of the county and another to vaccinate the 20 educators on the western side of the county was all it took to vaccinate all willing school staff against Covid-19 in the first week of January. A majority of the staff — 86% — opted to get the vaccination.

The challenges are immeasurably greater in Los Angeles Unified — by far the state’s largest school district, with about 600,000 students and 49,000 staff members. However, superintendent Beutner said the district is “uniquely situated” to open vaccination clinics at school sites when vaccines become available.

District schools are accessible to the community and have the security, refrigeration, electricity, restrooms and space needed to be used as vaccination centers, Beutner said. The district also has 450 registered nurses, 120 licensed vocational nurses, and health care providers who have been assisting with the district’s Covid-19 testing program, who can give vaccinations.

Established district infrastructure, like a transportation system that can move vaccines from deep freezers at district sites to refrigerators at school sites just before their use, and an information system developed for Covid testing that can be used for scheduling and tracking vaccinations, would be useful in running vaccination clinics, Beutner said.

On Monday Beutner sent a letter to local and state health officials asking them to immediately authorize the district to vaccinate not just school staff, but community members too.

“There’s a unique and important benefit to having Los Angeles Unified as a vaccination partner — doing so will help reopen schools as soon as possible, and in the safest way possible,” Beutner wrote.

Sacramento County school staff are also waiting for the county to complete Phase 1A of Covid-19 vaccinations. But when vaccines are available, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools Dave Gordon says a comprehensive plan will be needed to vaccinate the county’s more than 20,000 school employees quickly.

Gordon has been working on the plan, which is expected to be completed soon, with the Sacramento County Department of Health Services and all 13 school districts and charter schools in the county.

“I want to really emphasize that the interest of the governor is not to open a school here and there, but to do it at scale if we can,” Gordon said. “Our plan includes every school district in the county and charters.”

The plan would have school staff all vaccinated within a specific period of time, Gordon said.

Mark Billingsley, a middle school computer science and digital media teacher in the San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento, is eager to be vaccinated against Covid-19 so that he can return to the classroom.

“We all want to be on campus, and we all know the value of face-to-face learning,” he said. “If a vaccine gets us back on campus that much quicker I am all for it.”

Even success stories like El Dorado County, one of the few that is moving ahead with vaccinating its teachers, underscore the haphazard nature of the vaccination landscape right now.

School leaders thought they’d have about a month to put together a plan to roll out vaccines to school staff when they met on Jan. 8 to start the process. The following Monday afternoon the Office of Education was alerted by the county health department that the vaccine was available and began to work on a plan that all 15 school districts could use. Tuesday the superintendents of the districts met to discuss the plan. That afternoon teachers were being vaccinated.

Officials from the El Dorado County Office of Education came up with a template districts could follow. First, educate employees with fact sheets on both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and videos narrated by doctors. Second, send out a survey to gauge staff interest in vaccinations. Third, provide information on how to get vaccinated at either a public health clinic or Safeway pharmacy.

Officials from the county office also asked school districts to designate one person to act as a point of contact with the county and to put together a spreadsheet that breaks down the staff by school site and includes the names and contact information of all who are interested in being vaccinated. Districts also set up a process to notify staff when vaccination appointments are available.

Manansala is proud of the vaccine program that the county put together, and he hopes the template can be used by others. His office has already helped Lake Tahoe Community College launch a similar program on the other side of the county.

“This is going to happen in every county, right? All of a sudden it’s going to be ‘the vaccines are here,’” Manansala said. “And then, how districts and county offices roll it out will be really important.”

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  1. Andrew 1 month ago1 month ago

    Teachers in schools in Northeastern California, including Lassen County, were ordered to return to in-person teaching on January 4. This was notwithstanding that Lassen County's infection rate was the highest of any county in the state, and is currently still the highest at 15,563 cases per 100K. (LA County has 10,117 cases per 100K). Since the surprising reopening, news sources have reported Covid cases in the reopened schools, so that schools … Read More

    Teachers in schools in Northeastern California, including Lassen County, were ordered to return to in-person teaching on January 4. This was notwithstanding that Lassen County’s infection rate was the highest of any county in the state, and is currently still the highest at 15,563 cases per 100K. (LA County has 10,117 cases per 100K).

    Since the surprising reopening, news sources have reported Covid cases in the reopened schools, so that schools or cohorts of students go in and out of in-person learning. There is little indication of any effective representation or response by the unions tasked with representing the region’s teachers. Nor are there any reports of teacher vaccinations occurring or even being scheduled in the region. Bottom line, unvaccinated teachers are forced to teach in-person in the region with the highest Covid rate in the state. And now news sources report that there may be a shift to entirely age based criteria for vaccine priority, which could delay vaccinations for teachers in the region even more as they continue to teach in-person. The region seems to be off the radar screen of the state education officials and the teachers’ unions.

  2. Brenda Lebsack 1 month ago1 month ago

    As a teacher, I will reject the vaccine when it is offered. I have never been an anti-vaxxer. All of my children were fully vaccinated. Then Why? Because I do not trust "experts" who now say science views gender as fluid and expansive. The following article provides evidence of the "experts" who claim this. https://www.brenda4kids.com/our-media/articles/unlimited-gender-identities-endorsed-in-public-education-prek-12 I do not trust bureaucrats, pushing the "shot", who intentionally deceived the general … Read More

    As a teacher, I will reject the vaccine when it is offered. I have never been an anti-vaxxer. All of my children were fully vaccinated. Then Why? Because I do not trust “experts” who now say science views gender as fluid and expansive. The following article provides evidence of the “experts” who claim this. https://www.brenda4kids.com/our-media/articles/unlimited-gender-identities-endorsed-in-public-education-prek-12 I do not trust bureaucrats, pushing the “shot”, who intentionally deceived the general public by withholding this significant information. Unlimited gender choices based on feelings is not science, it is science fiction. If there’s one thing I agree with Planned Parenthood about, as it relates to vaccinations, it is Pro-Choice and Body Autonomy.

    Replies

    • Andrew 1 month ago1 month ago

      Each adult should have the right to get vaccinated for Covid or not, a personal choice. A useful exercise for anti-vaxers is to find a large old historic cemetery and take a slow contemplative walk around it, looking at headstones. There you will see the headstones of those who died of infectious disease and epidemics, before effective vaccines were developed. In some cases, you will see the gravestones of whole families who … Read More

      Each adult should have the right to get vaccinated for Covid or not, a personal choice.

      A useful exercise for anti-vaxers is to find a large old historic cemetery and take a slow contemplative walk around it, looking at headstones. There you will see the headstones of those who died of infectious disease and epidemics, before effective vaccines were developed. In some cases, you will see the gravestones of whole families who died in the same narrow time frame, from babies to adults. Many around 1918 during the flu epidemic. Others from scourges that swept through communities earlier or later. Vaccination is why you don’t see such clusters of new family graves in cemeteries now.

      The medical establishment hasn’t helped. Thimerosal is 50% mercury. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known. For years thimerosal was used widely in vaccines, and it has been gradually, reluctantly phased out. The only reason Thimerosal was used in vaccine was to kill pathogens that might get into a multiuse vial of vaccine as multiple doses were drawn from it with needles. It was not needed in single use vials or preloaded syringes. A single use vial might add what, ten cents to the cost of a dose of vaccine. But to save that ten cents, the medical establishment gratuitously put one of nature’s most toxic substances into a solution to be injected into humans. Hard not to be skeptical of such judgment.

  3. Mark Friedman 1 month ago1 month ago

    Take the Vaccine. Reject anti-Science Vaxxers, Rightists, Conspiracy Theories By Mark L. Friedman, RLNews, science reporter A dangerous coalition of anti-science, anti-vaccine organizations such as Freedom Angels has joined with right-wing militias in denouncing efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, and impeding healthcare advocates, doctors and scientists. This, plus the general distrust in the government has meant that 30% of the population, including a third of health care professionals, have decided NOT to take any of … Read More

    Take the Vaccine. Reject anti-Science Vaxxers, Rightists, Conspiracy Theories
    By Mark L. Friedman, RLNews, science reporter

    A dangerous coalition of anti-science, anti-vaccine organizations such as Freedom Angels has joined with right-wing militias in denouncing efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, and impeding healthcare advocates, doctors and scientists. This, plus the general distrust in the government has meant that 30% of the population, including a third of health care professionals, have decided NOT to take any of the available vaccines against the coronavirus.

    What is the science and why I urge everyone to get the vaccine when offered, continue to use masks and physical distancing to stop this pandemic and avoid large gatherings regardless of your political beliefs? More than 350,000 people in the United States and 2 million people in the world have died from the disease, and it I accelerating.

    The World Health Organization, which Trump refused to help fund, hardly a “radical” body has this to say:
    (zero yoga program you’re ready for https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/vaccines-and-immunization-what-is-vaccination?adgroupsurvey={adgroupsurvey}&gclid=CjwKCAiA25v_BRBNEiwAZb4-Za7lSwi72NAm5ZNQ444QmLSg5eWKqotVZ3FbppQkbgaERy22cmvGRhoCrxMQAvD_BwE)

    What is a vaccination?
    “Vaccination is a simple, safe, and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases, before they come into contact with them. It uses your body’s natural defenses to build resistance to specific infections and makes your immune system stronger.
    Vaccines train your immune system to create antibodies, just as it does when it’s exposed to a disease. However, because vaccines contain only killed or weakened forms of germs like viruses or bacteria, they do not cause the disease or put you at risk of its complications. In total, vaccines are estimated to save between 2 and 3 million lives every year.” The anti-Covid-19 vaccines contain viral RNA.
    Only by an overwhelming majority of the population being vaccinated and thus immune to Covid-19, will we develop what is called “herd immunity.” Immunity can arise either from the vaccination or by having and recovering from a coronavirus infection.

    This is what has been accomplished thru other vaccines like Polio, Measles/Mumps/Rubella, smallpox, cervical cancer (HPV- affecting many male and female sexually active youth), Yellow fever, rabies, cholera… and your annual flu shot. The science works—and all children must receive vaccinations to attend public school. Where this has not happened, such as in some religious communities, there is a disease outbreak that threatens many.

    Individual freedoms are important, but when that negatively impacts the rest of society and the right of survival and health of the majority, it should not prevail. One’s religion should not be an excuse either to exempt people. If that stood, we would never reach societal immunity.

    Are vaccines safe?

    WHO website again “Vaccination is safe and side effects from a vaccine are usually minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever. More serious side effects are possible, but extremely rare. Remember, you are far more likely to be seriously injured by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine.”

    And now to address the lies circulating on the internet and by irresponsible media.

    Is there a link between vaccines and autism?

    There is no evidence of any link between vaccines and autism or autistic disorders. This has been demonstrated in many studies, conducted across very large populations.
    In 1998, British Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues published a case study in the medical journal Lancet, suggesting that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may “predispose behavioral regression and developmental disorder in children.” Almost immediately afterward, epidemiological studies were conducted and published, refuting the alleged link between MMR vaccination and autism. Lancet published a retraction, Wakefield lost his medical license.
    Despite his study of only 12 children, the uncontrolled design and the speculative nature of the conclusions, the paper received wide publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned and outbreaks of the disease expanded in many countries. This was the beginning of the modern day anti-vaxxer movement.
    Yes, as with any vaccine, including the annual flu shot, some people will have reactions more than a sore arm or a slight fever. A few may die. But this number is far lower than the number who will die without the vaccine. Does anyone today advocate the children not get the vaccine for polio or measles? A few anti-science vaccines do, but it is a minuscule number.
    Just over 5 million people in the U.S. had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of, according to the CDC, and only a handful of reactions to them had qualified as anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. THERE HAVE BEEN NO DEATHS.
    Will COVID-19 vaccines provide long-term protection?

    It’s too early to know if COVID-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection. However, it’s encouraging that available data suggest that most people who recover from COVID-19 develop an immune response that provides at least some period of protection against reinfection – although we’re still learning how strong this protection is, and how long it lasts.

    The first vaccines for prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States were authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

    With the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines approved for use and distribution, healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics etc. and nursing home workers and residents are getting the first doses. Phase one has just rolled out with approximately 49 million persons, including frontline essential workers (non–health care workers) and persons aged ≥75 years are recommended to receive vaccine. Cuba has also developed a successful vaccine and will have the entire population of 12 million vaccinated in record time. By contrast the rollout of the vaccines and their administering has been criminally slow. Without a rapid increase in this, and 90% taking the vaccine, there will be NO herd immunity, and the pandemic will be circulating in the population a long time.

    It is ironic that some politicians, the most outspoken calling it the “Covid hoax, rejecting mask wearing and statewide physical distancing at restaurants, etc. were the first to jump in the front of the line for the vaccines. These included: rightwing republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and rabid anti-communist Florida senator Ted Cruz. SUCH HYPOCRISY. As these same people publicly disclaim science, denounce medical experts of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) they vote against financial assistance for working people, extension of unemployment insurance, a moratorium on evictions of renters and small businesses assistance. They reject physical distancing and mask wearing as a way to reduce the spread.

    The government has the money to help the millions of unemployed, didn’t they just appropriate $686 billion for the military, and give them a 3% raise while stonewalling needed aid for individuals and small businesses?

    Government Mistrust is Real and Justified. But trust the Science

    The widespread mistrust in the US government and its Democratic and Republican administrations is completely justified. They lie to the American people every day, violate the sovereignty of other people around the world such as Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, engage in wars aimed at bolstering the profits of US corporations, have whittled away at meager environmental protections and a woman’s right to choose, and the list goes on.

    The for-profit hospital industry turns away those needing life-saving treatment after reducing capacities for years and nursing home residents are crammed into conditions that ensure rapid spread of the virus. Pharmaceutical bosses insist on the inviolability of their patents, motivated only by profit, guaranteeing large swaths of the semicolonial world won’t see vaccination for months, maybe years. Pfizer says its doses won’t reach millions in the U.S. until June or later, while other plants capable of producing the vaccine are not used.

    The CDC was erroneous in all of its recommendations at the beginning of the pandemic by failing to take it seriously, by botching the removal and dispersal of those with infections from the cruise ships, and bending to the pressure of the Trump administration by not countermanding and explaining how slowing the rate of infection through mask use and physical distancing was real. Their recommendations were often political, not medically sound due to pressure from the anti-science Trump administration.

    However, science has prevailed in the ability to produce effective vaccines in China, Cuba, Britain, US, Russia.

    Although acceptance of the vaccine is notching up, Black and Hispanic Americans — among the groups hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic — remain among the most reluctant to roll up their sleeves.

    A leading anti-vaccine organization, Freedom Angels 2.0 banners it’s Facebook with: “We Will Not Comply with Tyranny.” “Health officials are Tyrants.” Denise Aguilar, Co-Founder, advocates restaurants violating the take-out only code, advises on how to counter the teacher’s union demand of safe school opening by forming your own school. “Public health is Public Enemy #1.” We shall come to your area and help you organize for a fee…We will teach you firearm training, help in keeping your business open by blocking CDC staff.

    The website is filled with conspiracy theories including that the pandemic is a communist conspiracy, the pandemic is no worse than the common flu and it promoted and spoke at the Jan 6 march and insurrection in Washington in support of Donald Trump.
    “We are here to recruit you”, said one of its leaders Denise Aguilar. “We are done with bills. We are done with newsletters…we are boots on the ground, and it’s our responsibility to take our government back.”

    Their rallies at the CA state capitol include Blue Lives Matter (Opposing protests against police killings), Proud Boys (Rightist pro-Trump conspirators), according to the 12.25 LA Times.

    Melanie Smith, head of analysis at Graphika, a social media analytics firm that tracks misinformation, said the fringe QAnon movement has gained influence with anti-vaccine communities online, boosting momentum and pushing unfounded claims about Covid vaccines into the mainstream. She told the NY Times:

    “QAnon at its core is an anti-government conspiracy — and we are existing in a time where communication with governments is extremely important, particularly for public health — so you have QAnon turning its attention to vaccinations,” said Smith, who has been studying the intersection of vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories since the pandemic began. (One of the most popular political conspiracies in the U.S. right now, she noted, is that the vaccines implant a microchip created by Bill Gates for citizen surveillance.)

    Other top Covid anti-vaccine theories include claims that the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is directly profiting from Covid vaccines, and those who choose not to get the shots will be denied food stamps, according to social media analytics firm NewsGuard

    The final message. Adhere to CDC guidelines to reduce infection rates, take the vaccine. Trust scientists not politicians. Publicly and actively we and our unions should campaign for free medical care for all, end the for profit “healthcare” system. Health care is a right not a privilege.