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2,000 area teachers to get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

2,000 area teachers to get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

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Health officials announced Friday that they will hold a mass vaccination clinic Jan. 22 for public and private school teachers in the Roanoke Valley.

The goal is to get 2,000 teachers vaccinated in one day.

The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts are partnering with Carilion Clinic to hold the largest vaccination clinic yet in the area.

“It shows what we can do when we work together, and we hope this is the beginning of what the future holds in terms of us working together to try to optimally offer vaccine opportunities for the entire population who wants vaccine in our community,” Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the health districts, said during a news conference.

Chad Alavrez, senior director of Carilion Retail Pharmacy, who is leading the system’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, said Carilion is excited to partner with the health department in getting doses to teachers.

Carilion is still focused on getting vaccines to health care workers who are in Virginia’s Phase 1a priority category.

The local health districts moved this week into Phase 1b, which includes essential employees, individuals 65 and older and people who have chronic illnesses.

Alvarez said he expects that early next week Carilion will announce plans about how it will vaccinate individuals.

Morrow has said she wants public health to handle large employer groups that can be registered though the Vaccinations Administration Management System, and for health care and pharmacy partners to care for individuals. She said this is the most efficient and safe way to reach everyone who wants the vaccine as doses become available.

She said they began to work with school superintendents as soon as they knew teachers would be included in Phase 1b.

There are about 4,800 teachers in the Roanoke, Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Salem school systems. Those who can't attend the mass clinic can make appointments to attend one of the other clinics that are vaccinating health care workers and first responders.

Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday urged schools to quickly get back to in-person classes and said vaccination is the way to do so.

Salem Superintendent Alan Seibert said in an email that his district appreciates the efforts by the health department and Carilion to create this opportunity.

“I often tell our educators that teaching is an heroic profession, and that has never been more evident than during this pandemic. The vaccination event will give all involved another layer of protection and confidence, as we continue to move forward,” he said.

“Our staff members will feel so much safer being able to have those vaccinations, so this is a huge step forward I think for public schools, and then for our students,” Roanoke County Superintendent Ken Nicely said during a separate press conference. “It’s not mandatory, but certainly strongly encouraged. That is a personal choice, but we have found so far that the vast majority of our staff is definitely wanting the vaccination.”

Nicely said staff vaccinations might allow for more students to return to in-person classes.

“We are definitely eager to have those conversations with our health department,” Nicely said. “With that in place, is there any room to perhaps re-look at some of the mitigation measures we have in place, such as the 6-foot physical distancing? That is obviously the biggest barrier to be able to have more students come into the schools.”

Staff writer Luke Weir contributed information to this report.

 

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