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Teacher COVID-19 vaccine rollouts delayed for some Utah school districts

Posted at 10:48 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 00:48:46-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah teachers could get the COVID-19 vaccine later than they had originally planned, after the Utah Department of Health explained they haven't been receiving as many doses of the vaccine as they thought they would receive.

While school districts adjust plans, for Salt Lake City School District in particular, this could create a complicated situation for teachers.

Jenny Johnson, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health, said vaccine shipments come in each week and they don't have a lot of notice on how many doses they are receiving.

In the last couple weeks, she indicated that it hasn't been as many doses as they ordered.

"We're like, 'Wait. We asked for this much, how come we didn't get it?'" she said.

Receiving a smaller number of doses, can mean changes in the timeline of administering it, and delays in when certain groups get vaccinated.

"There's been some blips at the federal level with many states including Utah, in terms of getting our allocated doses to us when we thought were going to get it," Johnson said. "So now, we're kind of playing catch up a little bit."

For some school districts, it doesn't really have an impact. For others, it means some rearranging.

The Davis School District said it was already looking at an end of January rollout.

School districts like Granite and Canyons told Fox 13 Tuesday they had originally planned for January 15, but now that is pushed back. Canyons said it tentatively scheduled a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for that day.

"We've been alerted to the real possibility the vaccine will not be available mid-January -- but we're still moving forward with our logistical planning so we can mobilize quickly once our doses arrive," wrote Canyons spokesperson Jeff Haney. "A firm date for our clinic will be announced as soon as we know for sure when our doses will arrive."

Ben Horsley from the Granite School District said they received notice from the state to plan on late January or early February for a vaccine. He said they have not set a new date until they have a clearer picture of when the vaccine will arrive.

The Alpine School District told Fox 13 they were planning for the second half of January.

"We anticipated some variation in the timeline," wrote David Stephenson with the Alpine School District.

Sandy Riesgraf with the Jordan School District said they have a plan in place, and are ready to go when they find out exactly when they will get the vaccine.

For the Salt Lake City School District, this would throw a wrench in plans for teachers who originally wanted to get the vaccine before the planned return to in-person classes.

Related: SLC schools to return to in-person learning in deal with Utah legislature.

"As everybody knows there's a lot of strong feelings on both sides of this issue," said James Tobler, President of the Salt Lake Education Association

Not to mention, there is a $1,500 teacher bonus relying on an early February transition back to class.

"We initially heard around January 8th teachers would be getting that first dose of the vaccine, with 21 days after that getting the second dose," Tobler said. He said about seven days after that puts them at February 8th, when the middle schools and high schools were expected to reopen.

But if teachers don't receive their first dose until the end of the month, that means the second dose won't come until mid to late February.

"We'd like to see our school board make a decision that doesn't require teachers to go back to in person instruction until after seven days after receiving the second dose of the vaccine," he said.

He said they prioritize health and safety over the teacher bonus.

Yándary Chatwin with the Salt Lake City School District said they are waiting on firm dates for the rollout just like everyone else. She said the superintendent is scheduled to make his proposal to the Salt Lake City School Board of Education January 5 that outlines moving class back to in-person learning.

"Things are changing so quickly, he likely won't finalize the details of his proposal until we're back on January 4," she said. "There might be new information by then, and he wants to make sure he uses the latest data and scheduling info when he presents to the Board. After that, the Board can vote to approve his proposal, modify it, or not approve it."

Johnson gave the reminder that the vaccine timeline is still flexible and can continue to change. She said it's possible they receive more doses than expected in the future, and everything balances out.

It's why the Utah Department of Health, she indicated, has kept broad a timeline for the rollout. Right now, they list school staff as set to receive the vaccine in a window defined as, "Late December--January."

"We're not that far behind right now. Especially for K-12 staff that are worried, the Department of Health at the state level has always sort of planned on this end-of January, maybe at the earliest mid-January time frame," Johnson said. "And school districts have to make plans, and so they may have to rearrange clinics that they thought they would be able to do."