Nicole Bostel, director of communications at STEM School Highlands Ranch, confirmed that teachers at the Douglas County charter school had the opportunity to get their shots this week.
The wheels were set in motion before the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told suppliers this week to stop any dose allocated to the various types of essential workers included in the second half of Phase 1B of the state immunization plan.
“We understand that others haven’t had the chance yet. If it had been a bit clearer when we received information that we weren’t supposed to be a part of this, I’m sure things would have been a bit different, ”Bostel said. “Our staff members were very enthusiastic and take advantage of the opportunity that is presented to them.”
Since health officials announced that teachers’ vaccinations are unlikely to start until March, many have wondered how their peers can get vaccinated. And others who had already made dates wondered if they should keep them.
Tiffany Choi, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said it was unfortunate that confusion over the vaccine rollout plan had led to inequitable distribution in Colorado schools. Denver public school educators have fears and concerns about the return to in-person learning this month, especially in light of the new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in the state.
“While there are many precautions that can reduce the risk of spread, there is always some risk when you are gathering people together, especially in an indoor space. Being able to have vaccines allows for an additional level of protection that would improve the safety of educators and students, ”Choi said. “Ideally, we would like this to be done in the fairest and fastest possible way.”
The state health department shut down before advising educators and other essential workers to cancel their immunization dates, telling the Denver Post in a statement, “We expect health agencies local public authorities and private providers adhere to the phases that we have developed for vaccinations… Providers do not respect management and risk their access to future supplies. ”
After Gov. Jared Polis announced that he had upgraded school staff to a higher priority for the vaccine, Littleton Adventist Hospital contacted STEM School Highlands Ranch to ask for a list of staff they could. offer the chance to be vaccinated, Bostel said. On Monday, staff members received an email to register for an immunization appointment. Bostel has also registered.
On Tuesday, amid confusion over which Coloradans should be the first to get vaccinated, the state health department clarified that residents 70 and older should come before essential workers, such as those schools and grocery stores. An official with the tri-county health department said a lack of advice led to errors in how the vaccine was allocated. (School health workers, such as nurses, are now eligible for inoculation as part of the state’s deployment plan.)
After hearing the news, Bostel waited to hear from Littleton Adventist, which is part of the Centura hospital network, to see if the hospital would cancel his appointment. He does not have. Bosetl received his first blow on Thursday.
It is not known how many teachers and other staff may have received the vaccine earlier than what is now permitted, said Kaitlin Wolff, who is part of the vaccine distribution team at Tri-County Health. . Since the hospital communicated directly with the employees, Bostel could not confirm the number of enrollments from the STEM school.
“We understand that our suppliers were trying to do the right thing and distribute to schools last week without such clear communication,” Wolff said. “But our advice is that we shouldn’t continue to provide vaccines to school staff until the first part of (Phase) 1B is finished.
Centura spokesperson Kevin Massey confirmed the hospital was honoring teachers’ appointments that were scheduled before receiving updated guidance from the state.
“It has also helped us maintain the efficiency of our vaccination clinics, as our goal is to ensure that every dose of vaccine is used. We also continue to schedule school health workers for immunization, ”Massey said. “Meanwhile, according to CDPHE guidelines, our goal will be to vaccinate individuals over 70 years of age as effectively as possible. We will launch additional vaccination sites to make sure we reach as many of this population as possible. ”
Last week’s about-face on vaccine distribution in schools created a sticky situation for those districts, including Cherry Creek and Douglas County, which had previously announced plans to roll it out to teachers. The state’s health department said anyone who has ever received a vaccine – even ahead of schedule – should get their second.
“While we expect everyone to adhere to our vaccine distribution plan, anyone who received the first dose of the vaccine should receive the second dose. Individuals need two doses of the same vaccine product to maximize protection, ”the agency said in a statement.