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No data on how many teachers received COVID-19 vaccine

By Harrison Epstein - | Aug 23, 2021

EMILY ANDERSON, Standard-Examiner

Two students at Northridge High School in Layton receive instructions from workers after receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a clinic held at the school on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Emily Anderson, Standard-Examiner file photo)

As the school year gets underway, around 40% of K-12 students are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Utah Department of Health. It’s unknown how many of their teachers can say the same. Malia Hite with the Utah State Board of Education told the Standard-Examiner that there were 38,495 licensed educators in the state last year.

On Aug. 11, California became the first state in the country to require teachers in both public and private schools get the vaccine before the school year. On Aug. 13, the Chicago school system followed suit, requiring its employees to be fully vaccinated by the middle of October.

In March, the Utah Legislature approved HB 308 focused on COVID-19. The general description of the bill says, “This bill prohibits a governmental entity from requiring that an individual receive a vaccine for COVID-19.”

In the plan presented by UDOH to the state board of education, vaccination is the first item on the list of recommended activities in the COVID-19 Disease Plan. It precedes indoor masking, physical distancing, screening testing and more. Since then, other school districts have followed suit — just not in Utah.

The state only keeps data on how many people are vaccinated by their age groups, not their profession. In July, Weber-Morgan Health Department Executive Director Brian Cowan encouraged people to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease control and Prevention regarding public health.

“Our recommendation for teachers and staff is to get vaccinated if they are able to receive the vaccine, and if they have questions or concerns to discuss them with their health care provider,” he said. “Based on our experience with the disease, we know that wearing masks, physical distancing and vaccination significantly reduces the risk of spreading the disease.”

The Weber-Morgan Health Department is holding a public meeting Monday to discuss potentially recommending to the districts that students wear masks in schools. On Friday, the state health department announced 1,116 more positive cases of COVID-19 including 216 from school-aged children.

Davis School District

Chris Williams, the director of communications for the district, told the Standard-Examiner that there is no explicit policy and therefore no data has been kept regarding how many teachers are vaccinated.

“We didn’t even keep numbers of how many people were vaccinated because there wasn’t a condition of employment,” he said. “Why keep numbers that won’t necessarily apply to anything?”

He added that teachers were one of the first groups in the state able to receive the vaccine earlier this year and that they worked consistently with the health department to make the school year as hygienic as possible.

Ogden School District

On Aug. 5, the Ogden School District sent an email to parents containing the year’s guidelines for handling COVID-19. It stated that the district will work with the Weber-Morgan Health Department in hosting vaccination clinics “based on community interest.”

In July, OSD Director of Communications Jer Bates told the Standard-Examiner there was no district policy regarding vaccinations for teachers. However, he estimated that, using anecdotal information from a survey done in in January, more than 75% of employees have chosen to receive the vaccine.

“Until COVID-19 cases and transmission drop and remain low for an extensive period, the possibility of large-scale disruptions to in-person learning will remain a concern,” he said via email. “The choice for age-eligible individuals to receive the vaccine can help reduce this possibility.”

Weber School District

According to Weber School District community relations specialist Lane Findlay, the district does not track whether or not employees chose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Therefore, there is no data as to how many of their employees have received a shot.

“We strongly encourage employees and students who are eligible to be vaccinated to consult with with their medical provider about receiving the vaccination,” said community relations specialist Lane Findlay in an email to the Standard-Examiner.

The district, in conjunction with the Weber-Morgan Health Department, will be holding vaccination clinics at secondary schools during the week of Aug. 30-Sept. 3 for any student aged 12-18, or employe, who is not yet vaccinated.

Alpine School District

Earlier this year, the Alpine School District held a vaccination clinic for district employees, in conjunction with the Utah County Health Department, and had around 68% participation, according to David Stephenson, the district’s executive director of external communications. “I am certain many more have been vaccinated since that clinic but we have no data on how many,” he said via email.

Provo School District

The director of communications for the Provo School District, Caleb Price, said that vaccinations were encouraged among employees. “We had a majority of our teachers receive the vaccine during the vaccine clinics through our district last spring, but I do not have the official total since we don’t track numbers for anyone that received the vaccine independent of those clinics,” he told the Standard-Examiner via email.


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