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Some educators eager for coronavirus vaccine but Missouri timeline remains unknown

Columbia Board of Education meeting 10/12/2020
A spokeswoman from the Columbia National Education Association says 2/3 of elementary teachers it surveyed do not feel safe having a four-day in person learning model because of a lack of social distancing.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Educators and school staff are some of the next in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine but it's not clear when that will happen.

Teachers and school staff are in Tier 3 of Phase 1B in the state's vaccination plan. Tier 1 included first responders and vaccinations began last week. Vaccinations in Tier 2 began on Monday and include people over the age of 65 or those with underlying health conditions.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 235,000 vaccine doses have been administered to people across the state.

But the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is yet to begin Tier 3 -- which includes educators, school staff and government officials -- and officials don't know exactly when it will begin.

"Due to continuing constraints on supply, we are unable to predict at this time when we may be able to transition into future tiers and phases.", said Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for DHSS.

The lack of vaccines for teachers and uncertainty about timing worries some Columbia Public Schools educators. District students went back into classrooms Tuesday, some for the first time since last spring. Some teachers said last week they preferred to be vaccinated before going back into classrooms.

"Next week, 76,225 doses will be received by our partners.", said Cox.

Columbia Public Schools has partnered with Boone Hospital Center to provide vaccinations to educators once Tier 3 is activated. CPS has 300 employees registered to receive the vaccine as soon as it is made available. That includes school nurses and employees working with children with certain medical conditions, CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

The Columbia Boone County Department of Health and Human Services has a limited number of vaccine doses available. The department is still working through Phase 1A vaccinations and Tier 1 of Phase 1B. Baumstark said the timeline is driven by vaccine supply.

"The state releases vaccine a little at a time and not all at once, so it doesn't really matter how quickly you go to administer you can only go as fast as the supply is available," Baumstark said.

CPS has identified positive coronavirus cases or exposures at 18 of its 21 elementary schools, all seven middle schools and three of four high schools since the pandemic began. The district reports 21 active cases in students and 128 students in quarantine.

Nine staff members have active cases with 38 in quarantine.

Baumstark said knowing the vaccine will be available provides hope for CPS workers.

"Employees are encouraged by the vaccine being on the horizon," Baumstark said. "It's a game-changer for us and brings us closer to a full in-person return for all students. It means that our adults will have another layer of protection and will hopefully significantly reduce the staffing issues we are seeing as well as reduce the community transmission that is impacting our schools."

CPS allows teachers who don't feel comfortable or are at higher risk of COVID-19 complications because of health conditions to work remotely. Teachers gave administrators their preferences at the beginning of the school year.

The Jefferson City School District has held in-person school since the start of the year, with some schools having to move online temporarily because of staffing shortages.

The district is working with the Cole County Health Department to provide vaccinations to district staff. A recent JC survey revealed 76.5% of staff plan to get vaccinated.

“We’re hopeful that we can work with health department depending on the availability of vaccinators and bring them to our schools whether we would do that, look at having clinics in the evening or possibly on the weekend where our staff could go to a few central hub schools and get vaccinations in one place.”, said Ryan Burns, spokeswoman for Jefferson City School District.

The Cole County Health Department says it might hold mass vaccination clinics for educators once the state moves to Tier 3. The Cole County Health Department started vaccinating the Tier 2 population this week.

Columbia / Columbia Public Schools / Coronavirus / Jefferson City / Jefferson City Public Schools / News / Top Stories
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Victoria Bragg

Victoria Bragg joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in October 2020.

She is a graduate of Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas and is a Dallas native.

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