CEDARVILLE, Ohio — The state of Ohio is moving forward in its plan to begin giving employees of its schools the COVID-19 vaccine with the goal of returning students to in-person learning by March 1.
During his COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the first doses will be rolled out days ahead of schedule, with the Cincinnati Public Schools set to get their vaccines on Thursday.
"Many other districts will begin next week, but we do not have enough vaccine to begin all schools on February 1," DeWine said. However, the governor did say that the state's ultimate plan is that anyone who works in a school in Ohio will have the opportunity to get their first shot in the month of February.
Schools that will get vaccines next week have already been contacted. All other schools should expect to be contacted by Friday with more information.
Districts in 11 Ohio counties are included in the first round that will begin vaccinations February 1, including 128 public and private schools in Summit and Medina counties.
"Teachers, in general, are pretty excited to be on the forefront," said Nordonia Hills math teacher and head football coach, Jeff Fox. However, he personally wrestles with some guilt about getting a shot. "With me as a 38-year-old, am I taking one of the finite number of doses away from someone that absolutely needs it at this time?" he explained.
Vaccinating school employees is part of the state's Phase 1B program. Earlier this month, the state sent school districts forms to be signed by superintendents asking them to agree to go back to full in-person or hybrid learning by March 1st. That is a condition of getting the vaccine.
The requirement angered teachers unions. The Ohio Federation of Teachers released a statement accusing DeWine of using the "life-saving vaccine as a bargaining chip, holding this precious commodity hostage."
Karen Rego, president of AFT Local 795, which represents teachers in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district, said teachers are being forced to return to the classroom by March 1, before all staff will be able to be fully vaccinated with the two required doses. "[We shouldn't have to] make a decision about going back, and then get vaccinated. It should be the other way around," she said.
In a virtual board meeting Tuesday night, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District laid out its plan to vaccinate teachers and staff as early as February 10, which is when the district expects to be eligible for the vaccine. Vaccination centers will be set up at East Tech High School, and Max Hayes High School, where school nurses will administer the shots. The district is also planning a social media campaign to boost confidence in the vaccine, and will incentivize getting a vaccine by offering an extra personal day off for employees who complete the two-dose vaccine regimen.
The following Ohio school districts will have its personnel receive the vaccine in the first week of the program:
Governor DeWine did not explain the criteria used in deciding which schools would go first.
You can watch Tuesday's briefing in the player below:
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