Hurrah — Teachers Near the Top of the Vaccination List

Administering the vaccine at the Richmond City Health Department. Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Department of Health has released its priorities for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in the next phase of the vaccination rollout. The top priorities are exactly who you’d expect — front-line essential workers and people over 75. It is reassuring to see that child-care and K-12 teachers and staff are high on the list.

In the initial phase, vaccines are being distributed to hospitals and nursing homes, either to people most likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus or to be at high risk of dying from it.

Next come the frontline essential workers. Police, fire and hazmat workers top the list. Then come corrections and homeless-shelter workers who work in settings where prisoners and homeless, packed into confined quarters, are at high risk of transmitting the virus.

Then comes the category of “child-care, K-12 teachers and staff.” One might ask why the commonwealth is prioritizing school teachers. After all, “the science” is clear that K-12 schools are low-risk settings for getting the virus. I’ll tell you why: Unlike the other occupations, teachers appear to be uniquely reluctant to return to their normal place of work. Their fears — rational or irrational — must be addressed.

Not all teachers are reluctant to attend school in person, of course. Many are putting put the wellbeing of their students ahead of any risk to themselves. They deserve everyone’s thanks and respect. Foot dragging seems most acute in Virginia’s major metropolitan areas where teacher unions are most assertive.

Think about it. Have you read anything about police or fire fighters in Virginia engaging in “sickouts”? No, despite all the opprobrium heaped upon policemen since the George Floyd killing, despite plummeting morale, and despite their frequent up-close-and-personal encounters with people who not always wearing masks and practicing social distancing, Virginia police and state troopers continue to serve. Of all occupational categories, only teachers have put their own wellbeing first.

Schools desperately need to get teachers back into the classrooms where they can instruct students in person. The online experiment has worked reasonably well for half the population but has been a disaster for the poor and minorities. By putting teachers at the head of the line for vaccinations, we eliminate the excuse for refusing to go back to school.

The health department has done its part by making teachers a top priority in the vaccination rollout. Now it is critical that VDH work closely with the Virginia Department of Education and local school districts to solve any logistical problems that would interfere with getting teachers vaccinated ASAP. Meanwhile, now that they know the state’s vaccination priorities, educators across the state need to be preparing for the return to full-time classes.

I can’t think of anything more essential than salvaging what’s left of the school year.

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63 responses to “Hurrah — Teachers Near the Top of the Vaccination List

  1. Trying to think about how many would we need to vaccinate per month to get, what 6-7 million done?

    Let’s say a million a month takes us to July?

    That’s 250,000 a week, 35000 per day

    The scope of this makes me wonder if this is going to go to the fall.

    • If we wait until everybody in some particular category is reached before moving on to others, it will take two years. There was a mixed message on that yesterday, with the Governor seeming to say it both ways: Complete the first category before expanding, and then seeming to say be flexible and use your vaccine outside the target group. I just know as a 66-year-old, with a cardio condition which puts a target on my back, I’m going to have to wait while a whole bunch of younger people at far lower risk go before me. Fine. Just get a damn move on.

      I fully expect the battle over open schools to continue until the fall. It will never get to 100% vaccinated and zero cases, and the fear will continue to be stoked. I do think the Governor sounded a bit stronger on realizing just how much damage has been done. Apparently that came after Channel 12 dropped him and went back to national coverage.

      • Annie get your gun… head to a BoA branch and move up in the vaccine line.

        Do you suppose you get the vaccine in the holding tank? That opens up a whole lot of $500 fine offenses.

        • Under active consideration….I stand by my earlier suggestion of passing it out at the mass testing sites. Governor didn’t take me up on that yesterday….Maybe I’ll send it to Avula.

          • I stand by my earlier suggestion of passing it out at fast food restaurant drive-thru windows…

            🙂

    • Do you know how many people will be administering the vaccine? I do not, and I’m not remotely qualified to offer a guess.

      Assuming a rate of 6 vaccinations per hour (one shot every 10 minutes) in an 8 hour day each vaccinator should be able to cover 48 people. In a five day week that amounts to 240 shots per vaccinator. At that rate, about 1,040 vaccinators would be needed statewide to vaccinate 250K per week – assuming, of course, enough vaccine is available.

      Do we have over a thousand individuals qualified to administer the vaccine? And furthermore, can we distribute them throughout the state in a way that will maximize their efforts?

    • 31 million seconds in the year. 8.5 million Virginians and 2 doses.

      Every two seconds and we’ll all celebrate 2022 in Times Square. Well, the group after 12/15/21 might still want to stay home.

      • Yes, assuming only one person in the state is administering the vaccine.

        • On average. Geez, don’t you become a dic… tater, too.
          Yes, we could break into two groups of 4.25 million, and…

          • I know, I just like yanking your chain a little…

            Using 8-hour days and five day weeks and 10 shots per hour per vaccinator it would take about 2,000 “vaccinators” to get everyone in the state both shots within +/-6 months.

            Since I have no idea how many people will be giving the shots and what their schedules might be I have no way of knowing whether or not it is reasonable to assume we could muster that many “person-hours” in a six month period.

            And , of course, as cjbova has pointed out, someone is going to need to monitor those who have been administered the vaccine for 30 minutes or so after they get the shot, so that will add to the “person-hours” needed.

            PS – My previous calculation did not take into account the need for two shots per person. Please accept my apologies for the error…
            …come on, man, don’ be a dic… …tater. 🙂

  2. And not sure about the optimism about teachers.. the second semester has already started and I doubt seriously they all get vaccinated in a month or two unless things are dang near perfect and that’s not going to happen.

    A more productive discussion might be summer school straight through to fall with a short break.

  3. The experience from Europe is compelling. Schools could have stayed open throughout this school year with minimal issues. In England, only the very highest level of lockdown results in the schools being closed.

    The liberals and teachers’ union (associations, whatever) were wrong to shut down the schools. Those same liberals had no qualms about pointing toward Europe to shriek about how poorly the Trump Administration managed the crisis. That was fair. But will they now admit that their “non science based” insistence on closed schools was also wrong? I won’t hold my breath.

    I’ll let you go first Nancy. Your commentary on school closings was long on dead teachers and short on science. Where are all the dead teachers in Europe? Or in US school districts that remained open? Are you ready to admit you were wrong?

    • If you go by DJ’s (and some others) premise, every single school in Virginia rural, suburban, and urban is a nest of liberals and teachers unions if they are not full-time in person.

      bzzzztttt

      • Nope, just the governor. He claims to be “fact based” and “science based”. He is neither. The facts and the science say that all of the schools should have reopened for full time in-class learning this fall. Northam had no problem shutting down all the schools last Spring. It was not a “local” decision. It did not require consent from school boards. He just did it. Somehow The Little Dictator couldn’t muster that same level of courage when it came time to respect the facts and the science and reopen the schools. Suddenly it was no longer a question of science. Suddenly the governor who has shred constitutional rights for 9 months couldn’t act because it was a “local” matter.

        • How is Northam differeent from many other Govenors on balance?

          If he stood out as being clearly worse than the other govs, you’d have a point but he’s not. He certainly is not the best – but not the worst either.

          Even Hogan has his issues… with the schools, no?

  4. What seems to have gotten lost in the discussion about how fast the vaccine can be administered is the half hour observation post-injection to monitor for possible allergic reactions that require immediate treatment.

  5. My guess would be that the district health directors will coordinate and what venues they use will depend on their district but also depend on their knowledge of how much vaccine they are going to get and when.

    They won’t set up at a Convention center or line up sufficient until they KNOW they’re going to get enough doses that require a convention center.

    I still wonder / worry that there needs to be a way to identify individuals in terms of if they got the first shot or not – and how they are gotten back in touch with when the second shot is available … are these sites going to give both first and second shots at the same session depending on whether waiting individuals are initial or second?

    What happens if someone misses the scheduled second shot. How would they reschedule or just show up with their vaccination card whenever and whereever?

    This is why I think this is not going to go that smoothly , and there will be the usual blame game….

    • According to Kirk Cox, Virginia is #46 in getting the vaccines out. According to Northam, that’s because he’s being very careful to make sure that the highest priority people get it first. According to the Virginia Mercure, that’s BS …

      And to many VCU students involved in clinical care, it didn’t make a lot of sense. The day before, the university sent out a mass email — not only to employees of the health system, but in other departments — informing them that COVID-19 vaccines were available to all VCU “team members.” Those included frontline “Tier 1” employees to the lowest grouping, Tier 9, which includes staff who have been working from home since the start of the pandemic.

      “I was at the very lowest tier,” said one IT employee who received his first dose of vaccine from the health system on Monday. “Of course, I don’t do face-to-face patient care. I don’t do any patient care. And I’m not over 65, I don’t have whatever conditions. But when they opened it up to everybody, I was like, ‘Okay.’ I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me signing up for one of these slots.”

      Slow and incompetent. It’s the Northam way.

      • couldn’t be this ? ” Yarmosky added that “Virginia’s main hiccups right now are around data reporting — our health care personnel have been 100% focused on getting shots in arms, but it’s taking a moment for reporting to catch up and for different computer systems to feed seamlessly into the Commonwealth’s central immunization data portal.”

        I’d give it a bit myself before I jumped on Northam…

        I don’t know what drives your hatred of Northam.. it’s inexplicable to me.

        • I’m not sure about that either. Northam is, from what I can tell, a pretty typical Virginia politician.

          If you hate that, your options are pretty much to move to another state.

          • DJ was critical of Northam early on for top-down dictates then when he switched to regional and local decisions, he attacked him on that! No matter what Northam does, DJ is going to diss him. Why? I don’t know but Northam has got on his bad side and it’s all downhill from here!

            😉

        • Does that explain why VCU is giving vaccines to Tier 9 people before even all the Tier 1 people have been vaccinated?

          • PS – Just in case you are planning on going all literalist on me, I’d define “all” in this case as +/-95%. I certainly do not expect each vaccination location to halt its program while it hunts down every single person from each tier before moving on to the next. But to allow Tier 9 people to be vaccinated when they haven’t really even gotten started on Tier 3 & 4 people seems a bit arbitrary and disorganized to me.

  6. If this is such a crisis WHY are vaccines only being offered Mon-Fri, 9-5?
    WHY NOT 24/7?

    Hospitals are 24/7!
    Doc in a Boxes are more than 9-5!
    Hell…. remember what 7-11 originally meant?

    No one is asking this very basis crisis management question.

    • I believe that is known as “southern efficiency”. The hassle you get while waiting in line is “northern charm”.

    • Great question. When Trump bumbled the COVID response the choir from the left sand the “Trump’s inaction is causing people to die!” song very loudly. Funny that I can’t hear them even humming the, “Northam’s inaction is causing people to die!” song.

      Let me guess – false equivalence?

  7. Baconator with extra cheese

    It’s ok because those at the top of government are getting vaccinated.
    The rest of us paupers can wait while they decide who is the most reliable voting block.
    And it doesn’t make a difference if the politician in charge is left or right, they are all professional politicians.

  8. The Virginia Inoculation Plan is laid out in 4 phases, 1a, 1b, C, and IV.

    IV is not a Roman numeral.

    • You sure it’s not O2?

      • Could be H4. One or the other.

        I’m warming up to the schedule either way.

        • H4O?

          • CH4. Weren’t you going for CO2?

          • No, just O2 vs IV. It’s hard to have a chemical formula back and forth.

            However, no vaccine and contraction could result in receiving O2, IV NaCl and possible CH4 on expiration.

          • IV — intravenous. There are oral vaccines. This ain’t one.

          • Of course it’s an IV vaccine. If it were oral, the stomach acids would destroy the tracking chip, even if it didn’t get shat out.

          • I knew what you meant by IV, however it’s an IM injection not titrated. Sorry I broke the rhythm.

          • “idiocracy | January 7, 2021 at 2:39 pm |
            Of course it’s an IV vaccine. If it were oral, the stomach acids would destroy the tracking chip, even if it didn’t get shat out.”

            You know beyond your jest (there is no chip, but I knew your joke) that’s exactly what would happen if you received a vaccine orally. Well it might make it through the stomach if you put it in something coated, but it wouldn’t be making it through the first pass of the liver.

            That’s why you methylate them (see prednisone and any oral steroid).

  9. Meanwhile in North Carolina, Wake County schools are having to increase substitute pay to convince them to come work in schools and keep them open while teachers have to quarantine: “The school district suffered staffing shortages during the first semester as teachers were forced to quarantine from possible coronavirus exposures.” So, for some school districts at least, vaccinating teachers and other school system personnel will allow them to continue working and spend less money on bringing in additional substitutes to replace them. I’m not confident that this is a misguided priority. Here’s the article I quote from at WRAL: https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/wake-school-board-approves-pay-incentive-for-substitute-teachers/19457541/.

    • I think vaccinating teachers is a great idea. So does Jim I think. The bigger question is why Virginia is #46 out of (I assume) 50 states + DC in getting the vaccines out. A second question is why work-from-home IT personnel from VCU Health are getting vaccines ahead of anybody (see the Virginia Mercury article linked in Kirk Cox’s statement).

      Finally …

      “To be a substitute teacher, it’s not required that you be a certified teacher or have previous teaching experience. You will need a high school diploma or a GED, however, and you must complete a short online training course.”

      Getting substitute teachers doesn’t sound like an insurmountable problem in a nation with a 6.7% unemployment rate. How well they each – I don’t know.

      • On the “substitute teacher”. Would you believe that Jim and Cranky have been hammering on Virginia School in blog post after blog post over their SOL scores?

        Would you imagine if these schools hired uncertified substitutes and the SOL scores were worse that Jim and Cranky would acknowledge that?

        what do you think?

        😉

        • Here’s a prediction: School systems that hire substitute teachers to help them maintain in-person classroom learning will, on average, show less decline in standardized test scores than school systems that stick to online learning only.

          • That might be a tough bet:

            ” The district is launching, “We Need You; They Need You,” which aims to encourage parents, retirees (including retired teachers) and those who support public schools to consider serving as substitute teachers.

            The substitute teachers do not need to have previous teaching experience, nor do they have to be certified as teachers. They should have a high school diploma or GED equivalent and complete a short online training course.”

            no teaching experiance – Zip. Yow!

            I dunno… this sounds more like glorified babysitting than teaching.

            Wake County, by the way is Raleigh. The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) is a public school district located in Wake County, North Carolina. With 161,907 students in average daily membership and 191 schools as of the 2019-2020 school year,[1] it is the largest public school district in North Carolina and fourteenth largest in the United States as of 2016.[2]

    • Hear hear for Wake County, N.C.! Sounds like Wake schools are working a lot harder to stay open than many major Virginia school systems. That may help explain why North Carolina is kicking Virginia’s butt in the competition for investment and talent.

  10. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    You know school teachers are trained in many things. CPR, how to operate a difibulator, suicide awareness, Epipen shots, blood borne pathogen cleanups, fire drills, tornado drills, active shooter drills, and I mean we can really can do so much. Why not train the school teacher to administer the shot? It does not look hard. No rocket science involved. One afternoon of training and you have a small army ready to vaccinate kids and parents. Warp Speed Mr. Scott!

    • You mean offering the training, not requiring it, right?

      • Yeah, we don’t need the aichmophobic art teacher administering the vaccine.

      • No. We require some kinds of training because we want everyone to understand the issue – even if they do not agree.

        I remember at work the sexual harassment training and the loudmouths who had grievances…big time… “Why why why do we have to hear this” 😉

        Have to say as a volunteer tax preparer, we MUST complete training of this type. Hard to believe but some counselors actually piss off some customers – body language… wrong words…. wrong questions.. it happens.

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