Teachers receive vaccines after extra doses made available


Courtesy of Barbara Tholen

Journalism teacher Barbara Tholen receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 3 at the Douglas County fairgrounds. She was among the teachers who made a last-minute rush to get one of the leftover doses at the end of the day. “I was surprised how emotional I was, but it’s been a long year for all of us,” she said. “We’ve given up a lot and lost a lot. The feeling that things might be starting to change was overwhelming and thrilling.”

By Tony Racy, Co-Online Editor in Chief

Assistant Principal Mark Pruet nervously rushed to get an available COVID-19 vaccine in time.

He was lucky to hear about an email sent at 5:06 p.m. last Wednesday stating that 40 doses were left at the end of the county’s vaccination clinic and that any staffer could show up at the fairgrounds to receive it. Vaccines have to be used once thawed.

“I realize that this is a mass blast (and late in the day) way to get this information out but I wanted you to know that Douglas County just called,” the email from USD497 spokesperson Julie Boyle said. “They have 40 doses of vaccine available at the Dg Co Fairgrounds. No Appt. Necessary. Just Show up! They close at 5:30 p.m.”

Preut didn’t waste any time.

I found out via text that there were extra vaccine shots available but I had to leave now,” Preut said. “I was in the middle of a meeting with a group of people so I excused myself via chat, grabbed my coat and hit the road.”

The dash to get vaccinated came as Kansas added teachers to the phase two vaccination effort. Other teachers had scheduled times to receive vaccines that day.

Going forward, the district has developed a process in which different staffers would be given priority for getting the vaccine. Lawrence Douglas County Public Health, LEA, and the PAL-CWA all worked to increase the accessibility of the vaccine to staffers who especially need them the most.

“Centered around equity and protecting those most vulnerable within their working conditions, this prioritization will guide the distribution of the vaccine in the coming weeks and months,” an email sent out by the school district said.

Staffers were excited to receive the vaccine after having to teach in a pandemic since March.

I was so happy to receive my covid-19 first vaccine,” business teacher Kim Hawks said. “In fact, I’ve never been so excited to get a shot.”

Teachers said symptoms that came with the vaccine were worth it to limit the spread of the virus.

“While the fatigue and headache was gone by the next day, my arm was difficult to move up and down without hurting for about two days,” social worker Heidi Woods said. “Other than that, it felt good to get the vaccine.”

Several teachers said they were concerned that distribution of the vaccine wasn’t more equitably handled.

“I took the day off to get my vaccine; however, where I live in Leavenworth County, teachers were vaccinated in their workplaces and did not have to take any time off at all,” teacher Claudean Phillips said. “I wish the Lawrence community could adopt these best practices to keep the students and community safe.

Even after being vaccinated health officials continue to recommend caution and mask wearing.

“I’ll still be double-masking until I can receive my second dose,” Hawks said. “And I’ll still be wearing my mask and social distancing even after my second dose. I want to do everything I can to minimize the spread and personally, to protect my husband who will not be eligible for the vaccine until the fifth phase.”