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Educators may start receiving vaccines as early as next week; small number of doses anticipated

Posted at 4:46 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 20:08:35-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Wednesday the Douglas County Health Department announced that educators will soon be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

3 News Now Reporter Alyssa Curtis spoke with Phil Rooney, Resource Specialist with the Douglas County Health Department, regarding the vaccine timetable for educators. Rooney said that the county public health department will have more information Thursday after Dr. Pour meets with school district superintendents.

Ten percent of vaccine doses the county receives will be going to critical infrastructure, which includes educators. There will also be an additional 3,000 doses coming into the county.

Of that 10%, Rooney said it is unclear how much will be going to educators versus other critical infrastructure employees but said, "They are through most of that critical infrastructure group so I think they’ll (teachers) be getting a good portion of it."

"We’re excited to get to vaccinate the teachers. It’s going to focus on K-12 first and the decision on who’s getting vaccinated is going to rest with the superintendents," Rooney said.

The superintendents will focus on those who qualify age-wise and prioritize based on age and underlying conditions.

"The vaccine will be allocated to districts based on their census group. For example, if the Omaha Public Schools have half of the students...they’ll get half of the vaccine doses. Then the superintendents will allocate that based on age and underlying conditions of those individuals," Rooney said.

To start, the focus will be on teachers in the classroom who are most likely to be exposed. Janitorial staff, cafeteria staff and others will not be in that first group.

Rooney said, "That doesn't mean a superintendent won't consider someone else, but we want to protect the most vulnerable."

Spencer Head, an OPS Board member who co-signed a letter to the Douglas County Health Department on the issue, is urging Dr. Pour to consider teachers for vaccines. He said while they understand the importance of vaccinating frontline workers and the older population, he's happy teachers are part of the conversation.

"It feels great and I’m glad that the decision was made...educators are an important part of the puzzle," Head said. "With 115,000 students in the county alone...that impacts not only those kids, that teacher but also their families and almost everyone in our county. This is a way we can inject just a little bit of stability in people’s lives...it’s a step forward."

Although it's a step forward, Nebraska State Educators Association President Jenni Benson said they will still continue to use safety precautions because vaccines are just one part of keeping the community safe.

"I don’t want anyone to just let their guard down, and say, 'Hey, this is all good now because I had a vaccine.' We’re saying it’s not all good now. You need to still do the things within the schools to make sure because your students aren’t being vaccinated and we know they’re carriers," Benson said.

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