03/05/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/05/2021 18:35
Austin, Texas - After the Department of State Health Services' (DSHS) announcement to make all school and childcare staff eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, APH updated its system to allow these groups to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
In just 48 hours, over 680 school employees or childcare providers have been vaccinated through APH. Austin Public Health expanded operations for a pilot back in January. This included (1A/1B) teachers, support staff such as custodians, cafeteria workers, campus office staff, and bus drivers in the surrounding school districts.
Based on the preliminary data of the pilot, approximately 4,300 school staff have received the vaccine. These school staff members included individuals from 11 public school districts and approximately 24 charter and private schools. In February, pilot services expanded to childcare employees, 187 of whom were vaccinated.
'When we look at reopening safely, our number one priority is education,' said Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard. 'We will continue to work with school officials and childcare staff to provide them a vaccine and we thank all of the city and county staff who made these operations possible.'
APH is calling on all 350 plus providers in Travis County to adopt the practice of 'School Saturdays' for this category of childcare and education to make it easier for staff to access the vaccine. The department is leading by example starting tomorrow, March 6. Saturday 1st dose of Moderna timeslots are reserved for staff who preregistered in the system. At this time, employees are being proactively scheduled. Verification of employment may be required onsite. There are over 12,000 school or childcare staff who currently preregistered in the system. Weekly appointments dedicated to this effort will vary on shipments and resources.
'Vaccine is still limited, and we must be strategic on how we can best protect the community with what we were allotted by the state,' said Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott. 'We have to continue the protective measures that we know for a fact work, which is masking, social distancing, washing hands frequently, and staying home when you are sick. These are necessary hygiene practices now and after the vaccine is available to the entire community.'
The CDC recommends that school staff be considered essential workers and identified several 'distinctive factors' that impact COVID-19 risk for teachers and school staff. Data gathered during APH case investigations show transmission of the virus currently happening during extracurricular activities or close, maskless gatherings outside of the classroom. School and childcare Employees are not limited to only APH as a provider and may find access to the vaccine through vaccinefinder.org. This also applies to the public.
Further plans of the vaccine allocation for this category and others will depend on state distribution and will continue alongside efforts to vaccinate our senior population.