[This post has been updated with the latest information as of Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.]
Across the country, COVID-19 vaccine shortages have contributed to the slower-than-expected pace of getting shots in arms, leading to frustration and uncertain timelines.
There’s every reason to believe the rate of production will eventually increase to meet the demand, especially as new vaccines hit the market. In the meantime, OCDE is working with the Orange County Health Care Agency to make sure plans are in place for vaccinating the county’s educators and support staff once sufficient doses are available.
“We continue to be inspired by the resilience, patience and dedication of the education community, which has provided steady and constant support to students and families,” said Dr. Christine Olmstead, OCDE’s associate superintendent of Educational Services. “Our objective is to simplify the vaccination process for those who make learning possible.”
Here are five things to know about vaccines for school and district employees.
The education sector can expect to receive vaccinations in March.
While the Orange County Health Care Agency has been moving quickly to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to eligible residents and workers, doses remain in short supply. The HCA continues to request additional doses from the state, which recently tapped a third-party administrator to improve and standardize vaccine distribution.
Based on state guidelines, the HCA is currently making vaccines available for those who fall within California’s Phase 1A, including health care workers, as well as individuals age 65 and older. Phase 1B is set to include education and childcare workers. Assuming doses are available, this phase is expected to begin on March 1.
School employees are no longer expected to be prioritized based on their risk level.
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.
OCDE is working with local health officials to regionalize vaccination efforts.
Once supplies are available — again, that remains the biggest hurdle — there may be opportunities for some sectors to create large points of dispensing, or PODs, for their employees. OCDE’s goal is to streamline the process for educators. That includes working closely with school district leaders and ensuring vaccination PODs operate outside of traditional school and business hours.
OCDE has also offered to help schools and districts register their employees through the county’s online Othena system, which is being used to schedule vaccination appointments.
School nurses will be deployed to help administer vaccinations.
The county’s network of professional school nurses will play a pivotal role in the drive to administer vaccinations in the education sector, which in Orange County includes about 150,000 workers from preschools and K-12 campuses to colleges and universities.
To expand capacity, OCDE is hiring 150 additional registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses.
OCDE has developed classroom resources for educators.
In partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency, OCDE has produced a collection of mini-lessons, activities and informational handouts about airborne illnesses and vaccines.
The content, which aligns with California’s Health Education Content Standards, was developed to provide timely and accurate information to educators and students. You can find these resources at link.ocde.us/vaccination-education.