Based on the latest state guidance, Orange County health officials have announced that nearly a third of new COVID-19 vaccine shipments will be allocated for education and childcare workers along with the food and agriculture sectors.
While vaccines are still in limited supply across the state, that shift means school employees who were originally included in Phase 1B of the county’s rollout can begin receiving their vaccinations starting next week.
The Orange County Department of Education collaborated with the OC Health Care Agency to open the county’s first education-specific POD — short for point of dispensing — at a Garden Grove Unified campus on Feb 18. Through the rest of this week, the POD will continue to focus on vaccinating the remaining 1,100 school employees who are at least 65 years old — or who otherwise meet Phase 1A criteria — and have an appointment for their first or second dose.
Starting March 1, however, vaccinations will be available to all school-based employees in Orange County, and OCDE is working with local school districts to set up additional PODs.
As these new sites come online, educators and support staff will be able to receive vaccinations at any location as long as they have an appointment. Operational hours will allow participants to schedule times outside their normal work days, including weekends.
All counties in California are still required to allocate 70 percent of their supplies to individuals 65 and older. But the remaining 30 percent will be divided among the new sectors, and the governor has called for 10 percent of the state’s doses to be reserved for educators.
Still, obtaining appointments may take some time depending on supply levels and the number of employees in the education sector, which includes public, charter and private schools.
No more tiers
While the state initially discussed categorizing school employees into risk-based tiers based on their roles, officials are no longer pursuing that option. That’s because educators and support staff will now be able to go anywhere to get a vaccine, including Super PODs, private clinics, CVS, Rite Aid or their own doctors, and it wouldn’t be feasible for those providers to independently verify job responsibilities.
For the education-specific PODs, OCDE will help school employees with the process of registering through the county’s Othena system. Once their appointments are confirmed, candidates must bring a current paycheck stub showing proof of employment with an Orange County school or district, along with a valid driver’s license or state-issued I.D. that has their date of birth.
Based on their experience with vaccination PODs, county health officials have advised OCDE to operate the Garden Grove location for several days before starting a new POD — and to wait a few days before deploying subsequent PODs.
This approach is deemed necessary to build capacity, train staff and troubleshoot issues as supply levels increase. But plans are already underway to roll out six more education-specific PODs in the weeks ahead in collaboration with local districts.
OCDE and its agency partners are discussing targeted locations including the Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana, Saddleback Valley and Capistrano districts to promote equity and provide convenience for school employees. If all goes as planned, OCDE expects to have seven school-based PODs up and running by mid-April.
For the latest information on Orange County’s vaccine efforts, visit covidvaccinefacts.com.