Utah K-12 educators will be eligible to receive the vaccine Monday, Gov. Spencer Cox announced in a weekly COVID-19 briefing Friday. Employees in some local schools, however, should expect to be vaccinated at a later date.
“Originally, teachers and school staff were anticipated to receive vaccinations later in January,” read a press release from the governor’s office. “Based on current vaccine administration progress, anticipated supply over the next several weeks, the important role schools play in society ... Utah’s Unified Command group recommended accelerating the vaccination timeline.”
After the announcement, administrators from the Morgan, Ogden and Weber school districts met with officials from the Weber-Morgan Health Department and Community Nursing Services — the contractor that will handle vaccinations in the district.
School officials were told “the allotment of vaccines available to the health department for next week has already been allocated to others in that same high priority grouping,” read an email Weber School District Superintendent Jeff Stephens sent to administrators, teachers and staff.
The Weber-Morgan Health Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The health department still must inoculate health care workers outside of hospitals, first responders and residents in long-term care facilities. Employees in Morgan, Ogden and Weber school districts, Stephens said, will likely begin receiving vaccines sometime during the week of Jan. 18.
“Whatever the day and time and place ends up being, it’s a great sign that Gov. Cox has reaffirmed the state’s stance that they’re prioritizing educators,” said Jer Bates, a spokesperson for the Ogden School District.
Vaccines made available to the Weber-Morgan Health Department will be split between the three school districts under its purview based on the number of people each district employs, according to Stephens’ email. That allocates 66% to Weber, 22% to Ogden and 12% to Morgan.
The Davis County Health Department, according to an email Davis School District sent to teachers Friday night, will begin vaccinating employees Jan. 12. On that day, only administrators, teachers and staff who have previously identified themselves as high-risk will be served.
From Jan. 15-16, all employees above age 55 will receive the vaccine, Jan. 22-23 is set aside for those ages 45-54, those between ages 35-44 can make an appointment for Jan. 29-30 and employees below the age of 35 will be vaccinated on Feb. 5-6. All dates are tentative and dependent upon vaccine supply, the email said.
Cox estimated it will take several weeks to vaccinate educators.
“We expect every local health department will run out of vaccine every week,” he said. “By the end of February, every person in this category that wants a vaccine should have one.”
The governor encouraged school districts to prioritize employees who are older and those with underlying health conditions.
The Ogden School District is using a survey sent out Tuesday to help it decide in what order teachers will be vaccinated. Answer options on the survey included “yes I’m high risk, I’d like to get it as quickly as possible; I’m not high risk, I’d like others to get it before me, but I’d still like it; and no I’m not interested at this time,” Bates told the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday.
In addition to the survey, Bates said, the district is “refining as best we can based on age and risk factors.”
The Weber School District, Stephens said in his email, is encouraging employees above the age of 55 and those with underlying health conditions to sign up to receive the vaccine first.
Each week, the Weber-Morgan Health Department will notify Community Nursing Services how many vaccines are available for each district, according to Stephens. The contractor will then open up the same amount of appointment slots for that week.
“We have been instructed that next week a link will be sent to us for sign-up,” he said.
Once employees register for an appointment, they will be notified when and where to go to receive the vaccine. The district, Stephens wrote, will most likely have two or three vaccination locations, each of which will probably be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-7 p.m.
Even though employees may have an appointment, Stephens warned, Community Nursing Services may run out of vaccines some weeks. Those individuals who didn’t receive it, he said, will be prioritized for vaccination the next week.
Davis School District employees will be vaccinated at a drive-thru clinic at Legacy Events Center in Farmington, Davis County Health Department spokesperson Trevor Warner told the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday.
“I assume we’ll be having clinics every day for the next little bit,” Warner added, noting that school employees would be the largest group yet to be vaccinated in Davis County.
Those employees, according to the Davis School District email, will receive both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but will not have a choice between the two.
Officials from local districts have indicated that vaccination will not be a condition of employment. They have, however, encouraged employees to get vaccinated when the time comes.
Although there is a tentative plan in place for school employee vaccinations, officials have emphasized that the situation is constantly changing.
In his email, Stephens committed to update employees each week, and Davis School District Assistant Superintendent John Zurbuchen said at a Tuesday board meeting that employees would receive a vaccination update every Sunday night. The Ogden School District has also been corresponding with teachers and staff through email.
Despite thousands more people being vaccinated daily, Utah still has a long way to go before achieving herd immunity against COVID-19, Cox noted. As of Friday, 2,693 Utah teachers had tested positive for the virus so far this academic year, according to the state’s dashboard. That number will grow until all teachers receive the vaccine.
“Unfortunately, this disease is surging again,” Cox said. “We have to do more. The fundamentals still apply, my fellow Utahns — wear a mask, physically distancing, testing, contact tracing, all of those things are still important for us to arrest the spread of this virus.”