Faculty and staff from Fulton County’s seven school districts rolled up their sleeves Saturday to receive their first COVID-19 inoculation.
A total of 755 teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff and other school employees who met requirements gathered at the Junior Fair Building at the Fulton County Fairgrounds for a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The clinic was a joint effort by the Fulton County Health Center and the Fulton County Health Department. Wauseon fire and EMT crews assisted at the event.
County Health Commissioner Kim Cupp said the federally-funded inoculations were held beginning at 9 a.m. and involved a swift procedure using four vaccine stations.
“Things moved smoothly, and the individuals who attended seemed satisfied with their experience,” she said. Participating school faculty and staff members will receive their second dose on March 20 at the fairgrounds. Two weeks after that inoculation they will be considered fully immunized against COVID-19.
The Northwest Educational Service Center in Archbold surveyed each county school to gather the number of preliminary participants. The superintendent of each district provided a list of those faculty and staff members attending the clinic.
Those who received the vaccine were required to complete a screening form by email or on the health department’s website. Their temperatures were checked prior to being vaccinated.
Cupp said those vaccinated were asked to remain in an observation area for 15 or 30 minutes in case of an adverse reaction to the shot. Those whose screening indicated a potentially higher risk of reaction due to previous allergic incidents were asked to stay the longer period.
One person at the clinic had a negative reaction that required treatment by EMT personnel on the scene. The person fully recovered.
Cupp said everyone reacts differently to the vaccine; while some may experience a harsher reaction, others experience only mild symptoms.
She said vaccinating the county’s school personnel does not mean the school districts should lift ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. “At this time we’re asking everyone to continue the same precautions that they have been taking,” she said. “I think we need a larger percentage of our general population to be vaccinated before we can consider removing some of those precautions. I think it’s a little premature yet.”
As for the county’s students, only individuals 17 and older are approved for the Pfizer vaccine, and only individuals 18 years and older for the Moderna vaccine. Those age groups are currently not eligible to be vaccinated.
About 60% of Evergreen Local Schools staff members agreed to the vaccine. Superintendent Eric Smola said the district has provided in-person instruction since the school year began, “and we are hopeful that staff vaccinations will continue to allow for our students to learn on campus.”
Students who chose online learning will continue in that platform for the rest of the school year.
“We look forward to the days when the fear of COVID is behind us and our community is able to return to our buildings without COVID restrictions,” Smola said.
Most of Swanton Local Schools faculty and staff chose to get the vaccine. Superintendent Chris Lake said there are no issues regarding those who decided against it.
Students enrolled this school year in the school district’s virtual academy due to COVID-19 will not be asked to begin attending in-person now that district employees have been vaccinated.
“Everyone looks forward to a time when things can return to normal and getting people vaccinated is a great first step towards that goal,” Lake said.
In Wauseon, 68% percent of the school district’s faculty and staff were inoculated. As with the other county school districts, mask and social distancing protocols invoked by the Ohio Department of Health won’t change in the school buildings, Superintendent Troy Armstrong said.
And no students attending the virtual academy will be asked to return to the classroom due to staff vaccinations, he said.
“Wauseon Exempted Village Schools have been operating in-person for the duration of the 2020-21 school year, with only a few periods of remote learning and instruction. Unless the Ohio Department of Health makes changes to COVID-19 guidelines, Wauseon EVSD will continue our mitigation strategies,” Armstrong added.
Cupp did advise citizens that, despite the free inoculations given to school employees and other essential workers, facilities offering the vaccine have the choice to charge people an administrative fee.
“They shouldn’t be surprised if they go to a commercial pharmacy and they are asked for their medical information in order to bill the administrative fee. That is an acceptable practice,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.