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District, teacher union, pleased with Gov. DeSantis’ latest order approving COVID-19 vaccine for school employees

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 10:40 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday more people would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, including K-12 school employees, law enforcement, and firefighters 50 and older. Additionally, people who are deemed extremely vulnerable by their physician will be eligible for the vaccine.

Carmen Ward, the President of the Alachua County Education Association, thinks Gov. DeSantis heard the voices of employees caring for students.

“We have been pushing for this. We’ve been writing letters. I do feel like the governor heard us that we should be a priority.”

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Alachua County School District Spokesperson Jackie Johnson said employees have been working under trying and uncertain conditions, and she believes this latest move is positive. According to Johnson, about 1,600 employees will now become eligible for the vaccine.

“To know that we’ve got such a significant proportion of them who will be able to get the vaccine, probably over the next couple of weeks, is really, really good news.”

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The fact that no employee is left out is essential.

“We were certainly a little bit worried that people who were not classroom teachers would be left out of this mix, that would have included bus drivers and cafeteria workers, and custodians and all of those other people who are out there interacting with students and working in the schools every single day. We were so pleased that the governor has said that all K-12 employees who are 50 plus are eligible for this. They are all out there working for the benefit of the students. They need that protection as well.”

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She said school district officials using their previous experiences to help guide this next phase of vaccinations.

“Previous clinics gave us very good experience in setting up appointments, working with the University of Florida and the Alachua County Health Department to get people scheduled to get them all of the paperwork they needed. The good thing is we have some experience in getting this done.”

Johnson said just because employees are getting vaccinated doesn’t mean people can ignore other rules such as social distancing and masking in schools.

Ward believes this is the first step to getting everyone in the district vaccinated, which will lead to a safer return to in-person classes.

“That is the next step, is that everyone in our school system be eligible and be a priority.”

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She thinks people who are eligible need to know about the vaccine.

“Our job now is to promote vaccination.”

According to Johnson, district officials have started working with their partners at UF Health and the Department of Health in Alachua County to help set up Pfizer vaccine clinics. Ward said there are tentative plans to have vaccine clinics on Friday. There is no exact start date as details are still being worked out.

We will continue to keep you updated on-air and online as soon as any new details are announced.

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