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Molly Spain, kindergarten teacher at Elizabeth Page Elementary School in Springfield, said she received a shot to protect her students. Spain said the shot was a “piece of cake” and the experience was a “step in the right direction.”
At the very least, the slow trickle of coronavirus vaccines has given school districts time to get their ducks in a row. With only a few days’ notice, Springfield, South Lane and Creswell school districts executed their first staff mass vaccine events last weekend with efficiency and minimal stress, health officials said.
Springfield schools received 411 doses, South Lane received 100 and Creswell received 40. Not nearly enough, district leaders agreed, but “every dose counts,” said Jenna McCulley, community engagement officer for Springfield schools. “Every distributed dose is a step in the right direction. It’s just another layer to keep the community healthy.”
Other eligible groups continued to receive vaccinations, too, with the priority on front-line healthcare workers, educators and seniors in care facilities.
The Rawlin at Riverbend memory-care community in Springfield administered the vaccine to 70 residents and staffers Jan. 27. The facility provides daily care and life-enrichment activities in a homelike environment to residents living with dementia and other memory impairments.
“Our residents feel safe here and thrive in an environment that is familiar to them, so we feel very fortunate to be able to offer a vaccine clinic here inside our community, said Natalie Nelson, regional operations director.
The Springfield schools partnered with Cascade Health to distribute 450 Moderna vaccines to staff and teachers from several districts Saturday. Pleasant Hill, Lowell, Marcola and McKenzie schools were part of the vaccination. As a bonus, health officials found and distributed an additional 39 additional doses to district staff, McCulley said.
It’s a small chunk. There are 1,580 staff and teachers in the Springfield district alone. But it’s a start, she said.
The clinic in Springfield was a “smooth” process, said Tanya Martin, Cottage Grove resident and registered nurse with SPS. She has been at the helm of handling the Covid crisis in SPS since March.
Though trying, Martin said it was exciting to get the clinic underway. “We probably only had 72 hours to really fine-tune all the logistics – the flow of traffic, the checking-in process, and the station to observe people after they’ve got their vaccinations,” she said.
Areas were established to ensure optimal traffic control and social distancing. Stickers on the floor guided patients through the process. Appointments were staggered in 20-minute increments. Patients checked in and followed the arrows to a large vaccination area.
After the injection, patients were sent to another room, where they sat for 15 minutes and were observed for side effects.
McCulley said she was not aware of any patients reporting negative reactions.
Maureen Weathers works in the business office with the Lowell Area Schools and received her first shot. She sat in the post-vaccine room with her Oregon Ducks mask on, quietly reading a book.
All went well, she said, noting that she is eager to get the second shot and resume visits to loved ones at a local senior living community.
“Life goes on,” she said as she looked at her freshly vaccinated arm. Those vaccinated last weekend will be ready for their second doses around Feb. 27 after a four-week buffer.
Creswell’s district distributed 40 vaccines to its staff over two days last weekend.
The original plan was to establish a clinic site much like the one in Springfield, said Mike Johnson, Creswell schools superintendent, but operational restrictions were tightened and unobtainable for the smaller district. Administrators instead opted to work through Lane Education Service District and with a local undisclosed pharmacy to distribute the vaccine.
CSD received only a day’s notice from the county, but the district was ready for it. “We were really coordinated and fluid in our first round of vaccinations. We had a plan and we followed it step-by-step,” Johnson said.
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Cascade Health nurse Karen Knowlton fills out an information card among vaccine materials, including lollipops.
There are 194 total employees in the district, and nearly half of them commute from larger metropolitan areas like Eugene-Springfield. Conversely, about half of the Creswell working population commutes to work in the Eugene-Springfield area, making the spread of the virus more viable in Creswell. “We have to consider the case count in those communities for the spread of the virus,” he said.
Jason Davis, spokesperson for Lane County Public Health, said it is receiving 3,600 doses this week from the Oregon Health Authority specifically earmarked for educators, of which there are still 4,600 people still to be vaccinated.
Davis said LCPH will receive no doses this week for the 1A Group that precedes them, of which there are still about 15,000 people still to be vaccinated. In working with local hospitals, however, Davis said the LCPH is still planning for a 1A mass vaccination clinic this weekend. They will contact those on the list curated from the last registration effort. The amount of doses was not known at press time.
Superintendents await the next allotment of doses for this weekend from county health officials, and hope for similar or more doses moving forward. “When we get the vaccination dose numbers, we know it’s go-time,” Johnson said.
LCPH this week will roll out a public sign-up process to receive the vaccine that will include an online link and phone number. As vaccines become available, those who signed up and become eligible will be contacted.
“We still do not have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone in the county, and we don’t have enough vaccines to even be able to vaccinate those who are currently eligible,” Davis said. “So while that process is probably good news for many folks who just want to be able to secure their place, it does not mean that you will be able to be vaccinated any faster than you would otherwise.”
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Springfield teachers and staff wait in the post-vaccine area on Saturday to ensure there were no side-effects after receiving their first dose.
And despite the limited allotment, vaccination eligibility for people 80 years and older is still scheduled to begin next week, Davis said.
“We have received no indication on how OHA plans on allocating those doses. We expect based on precedent that OHA will earmark doses specifically for wave one (80-plus) and continue to earmark doses for 1B (educators), and then whatever we have leftover in our allocation will be used to continue to follow up with Group 1A,” Davis said.
LCPH requested 8,700 doses for the first group for next week, and “as many as possible” for educators and those in the 80-plus category.