A task force has a prepared a plan to vaccinate all teachers and employees in Fayette County’s schools, but when that will actually happen depends on when enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrive.
The Fayette County Task Force is working with all six schools districts – along with other groups eligible for the vaccine in the 1B phase of the process – to find out how many teachers and other workers want to be vaccinated and where the clinics should be held.
Muriel Nuttall, executive director of Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, which is part of the task force, said there are “supply chain issues” in receiving enough vaccine doses to move into subsequent phases as the county continues to work through the initial 1A phase set up for frontline health care workers.
Once enough new doses arrive, the county will be able to vaccinate more people, although the expanded grouping that makes people 65 and older eligible has put an added strain on the supply. Until the county and its hospital systems receive more doses, the vaccination process is in a holding pattern, she said.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Nuttall said. “We’re hoping it’ll be sooner rather than later.”
School administrators have put out surveys to see who wants the vaccine, along with other pertinent information that will help to streamline the process once it begins.
Christopher Pegg, superintendent of the Albert Gallatin Area School District, said they are opening the process to all teachers, employees, bus drivers, administrators, custodians, and employees from outside agencies who work in the district. A majority of employees have indicated they want to be vaccinated, Pegg said, but it’s not mandatory and some have decided to opt-out.
“We’re cautious about making it mandatory,” Pegg said, declining to say how many employees have indicated them don’t want the vaccine. “At this point, our district is not planning on making it mandatory until there’s more information.”
His school district originally planned to hold its own vaccination clinic, but the task force asked they instead participate in the countywide plan that would vaccinate all educators at one time. A “handful” of employees have already received the shot since they were eligible during the initial phase, he said.
“That’s where we are at this point, waiting to hear from the task force about when and where it’s going to be made available so our people can receive the vaccination shot,” Pegg said. “We’re gathering information on all of our employees who want to get the vaccination shot so we can get an accurate number.”
It’s unknown where the clinics will be held once the vaccinations for teachers begin, although Nuttall said that could depend on which version of the vaccine they receive. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at colder temperatures, meaning the clinics would likely be held closer to a medical facility, while the Moderna version could be sent to remote areas in the county.
Jesse Wallace, superintendent of the Laurel Highlands School District, said he heard one plan would be to hold vaccinations during a single week at each high school in the county. If that plan was to happen, teachers and other school employees would feel more comfortable navigating familiar buildings, he said.
“The plans haven’t been disclosed yet, but we’re hearing there will be a central location that could handle that volume,” Wallace said. “It could be each high school in the district’s zone (or) it could be another location. But that’s what they’re pushing for to have a mass type of inoculation.”
He said the task force, which is made up of various county agencies and organizations, is working well together and communicating as much information as possible to the school districts and other groups in the subsequent phases. The only holdup right now is the amount of vaccine available, although a plan is already in place to begin the process once the supply has been delivered, he said.
“What I’m understanding is they’re working very well with the supply agencies that are sending the vaccine, or they wouldn’t even be talking about this plan,” Wallace said. “They’re all trying to work together to get this thing going.”