ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – Monday marked the start of Phase 1B for vaccine distribution in Southwest Virginia.
While Phase 1B opens vaccine distribution up to more groups, now eligible for the vaccine under this criteria are area educators. Officials with the Mount Rogers Health District told News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield they are working to vaccinate these school employees in pods, starting with Washington County, Virginia Schools employees along with Bristol, Virginia Public Schools employees.
The goal is to have a different pod in each day and have all the districts vaccinated by the end of the week.
There was a line out the door of educators ready to receive the vaccine. Officials said in order to receive the vaccine, teachers had to go through an online system run by the CDC so the local health district in charge of vaccinations can keep track of how many vaccines they need and proper allocation.
“We have 1,000 vaccines per day, scheduled for today and then we have between 400-600 every day for the rest of the week,” said Mount Rogers Health District Population Health Manager Breanne Forbes Hubbard.
The process was smooth Monday morning with a socially distanced line formed and staff directing those getting vaccinated to the proper stations.
“I was excited and also a little nervous but I went ahead and signed up for it anyway because I knew that would give me another layer of protection going back into the classroom,” said Virginia High School teacher Shauna Russell.
Brad Hutchinson, a teacher at Virginia High School and the co-president of the Bristol, Virginia Education Association, agreed.
“All in all, it was great. It was painless and very simple and everyone was wonderfully nice,” said Hutchinson.
These educators have become a part of history by receiving their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, but falling in the phase right after frontline healthcare workers is what meant the most to those who were vaccinated on Monday.
“I think it’s very humbling and I’m very grateful to know that I am, as a teacher, considered an essential person,” said Russell.
Forbes Hubbard said while there has been progress with the release of a vaccine, the fight is far from over. They’re still working to vaccinate as efficiently as possible under the phased plane, but moving to phase 1B has been a great success so far.
“We are all really thrilled to be able to vaccinate our teachers, especially because we had to, back in December, cut down our contact tracing due to a result of an increase in caseloads so we’re just so thrilled to be able to provide this extra layer of protection for our educators,” she said.
In a press release received the week prior, the Virginia Education Association made a recommendation that all schools remain virtual in the state until all teachers receive both doses of the vaccine. However, Bristol, Virginia Public Schools Superintendent Keith Perrigan is suggesting Monday night to the school board that they do return in-person on January 25th.