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Sonoma County readying system to vaccinate school staffers

Under the still-evolving plan, employees would be contacted through their district when vaccines became available at the county level.|

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A massive effort to vaccinate approximately 15,000 people who work in Sonoma County’s education sector, from preschools to Santa Rosa Junior College, will begin the first week of February under a coronavirus inoculation plan being developed by the Sonoma County Office of Education.

Jeff Harding, retired superintendent of the Healdsburg Unified School District, has been hired by the Office of Education to work with county public health officials to vaccinate school staff. The group includes workers at not only public kindergarten through 12th grade institutions but also employees at preschools, private schools and SRJC.

Under the still-evolving plan, employees would be contacted through their district when vaccines became available at the county level. Employees will then be asked to register for a specific appointment time during which they will receive their shot and be signed up for the second dose approximately four weeks later. Educators have been assigned the Moderna vaccine, county Superintendent of Schools Steve Herrington said Friday.

“We are trying to make this as convenient as possible,” he said.

Because of the way that the state has prioritized return-to-classroom plans for the county’s youngest students, vaccination priority will be given to preschool, child care and elementary school employees, Herrington said. They will be followed by secondary school employees, district and county office employees and community college staff.

The number of people grouped in Phase 1B of the state’s prioritization system along with educators and school staff grew substantially this week after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that residents 65 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. There are 105,000 people 65 and older in Sonoma County, according to Paul Gullixson, spokesman for the county.

“I think it’s fair to say that, no we have not gotten the allocation that we would have liked,” he said in a media briefing Friday.

“We do not have enough doses for that total population,” deputy health officer Dr. Kismet Baldwin said.

How doses are distributed will depend on the supply issued from the state, but should not affect the number of educators and school staff who are able to get shots, said Dr. Sundari Mase, county public health officer.

“The rollout is going to depend on the supply of the vaccine,“ she said. ”I don’t think it’s going to bump anybody out of the current plan. The plan that we have with SCOE is to begin vaccinating … educators somewhere around the first week in February.“

The county Office of Education and district officials have begun scouting pop-up clinic locations on school campuses and putting school nurses, who will play a crucial role in inoculating thousands of school staff across the county, on alert that they are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We are working with our school nurses to get them vaccinated as medical personnel so that they would be available to help in this effort,” Harding said. “There are a lot of school nurses in the county and if we can get them vaccinated and get them released from other duties I think we’ll have enough.”

Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Diann Kitamura said she was alerted Friday that some district nurses had received the first round of the inoculation.

“When I got the first email from an employee that was so thankful and overjoyed to get the vaccine, my heart literally, my chest tightened up,” she said. “It was such … a huge sense of hope and relief that it actually happened.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @benefield.

Kerry Benefield

Columnist, The Press Democrat

Have a story that is wild, wacky, bizarre or beautiful? Tell me about it. Have a question that starts with, “What’s the deal with…?” Let’s figure it out together. This column is about the story behind the story, a place to shine a light on who we are, what makes us a community and all of the things that make us special. With your help, I'll be tackling the questions that vex us: (the funny, the mundane, and the irritating.)

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