Hawaii school employees begin receiving coronavirus vaccine

Hawaii school employees begin receiving coronavirus vaccine
(Source: HNN)

HONOLULU (AP) — Educators and child care workers across Hawaii have become eligible and started receiving coronavirus vaccinations.

Their status as frontline, essential workers allows educators to begin receiving vaccine shots under Tier 1-B of the state’s distribution plan, Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

The tier also includes people aged 75 and older. Hawaii’s oldest residents were initially given priority for vaccinations because there was a shortage of vaccine supplies and they are most at risk from the disease.

Hawaii Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami said 18,200 education workers completed online forms saying they want to be vaccinated and that their the names have been submitted to the Hawaii Department of Health.

The health department is sharing the list with medical providers who administer the vaccines. As of Friday, 9,000 names had been submitted to providers, Unebasami said.

Hawaii has about 44,000 public school staff including contract workers and casual hire employees.

Some private schools also have submitted lists of employees who want to be vaccinated to the health department.

The education department included all school workers in its priority list — from classroom teachers to school bus drivers, rather than favoring any job category.

“It’s not just the teachers,” Unebasami said. “In order for the schools to operate and bring the kids back safely, we need our administrators, we need our cafeteria workers, we need our custodians. Everyone who is working with children or facing the public.”

State-level education personnel and those who do not deal directly with the public are placed in a separate vaccination group with lower priority.

Medical providers and the health department are arranging the pace of vaccinations based on supplies from the federal government and the perceived need.

The process includes contacting priority groups to schedule appointments and establishing delivery points, including some at schools, in collaboration with education officials.

“We are happy to provide vaccinations to teachers who have been referred to us by DOH,” said Melinda Ashton, executive vice president and chief quality officer for Hawaii Pacific Health.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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