The vaccine is finally available! Well, almost. Teachers are in vaccination group 1B. AACPS has carefully surveyed its entire staff, partnered with the Anne Arundel County Health Department to coordinate vaccinations, and the fire department has generously agreed to administer them. The only remaining piece to this puzzle is the vaccine itself. So where is it?
As of the writing of this column, the Anne Arundel County Health Department was shorted vaccines for the second week in a row in favor of sending them to private partners and to help establish state-run vaccination sites. A decentralized approach. While no one disagrees that administering the vaccine is an all-hands-on-deck operation, the result appears to be the delay in the start of vaccination clinics for our teachers and staff.
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, as of February 3, Maryland is ranked 37 of 50 states in terms of vaccine distribution with only 48.42% of its 851,250 doses administered compared with West Virginia, which has administered 80.68% of its 278,400 doses. According to the New York Times, as of February 2, Maryland is ranked 35th of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of vaccine distribution with only 7.4% of the population vaccinated with the first dose, and a mere 1.5% have received both doses with only 57% of the doses used. Per the Anne Arundel County COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, only 6.8% of county residents have received their first dose and 1.4% have received both doses, lagging behind the state overall in terms of first doses administered.
Now for some solutions. Teachers and staff who live outside Anne Arundel County can and should register with their local health department in their county of residence. Additionally, anyone who lives or works in Anne Arundel County can preregister on all the following sites:
Without getting into the argument as to whether or not vaccines are a mandatory prerequisite for school reopening, I can share that mentally it sure does help to have cleared that hurdle on the pathway back to a normal existence, especially in the wake of news that several virus mutations, including the South African strain, now exist in Maryland. This is particularly true for our underserved populations, including students served by free or reduced school lunches, English language learners, students with special needs, and other minority groups and under-resourced communities. These groups of students need to be back in school buildings the most and are potentially at increased risk to be disproportionately affected by the virus on all fronts.
We must do better by our teachers, staff and students, all of whom want nothing more than to be back in school buildings and resume in-person instruction. Our school system pivoted on a dime, built a distance learning model from scratch, provided one-to-one tech for students and staff, and our teachers now work harder than in pre-COVID times to deliver instruction and keep our students engaged. Shouldn’t their place in group 1B be honored with swift inoculation? Why should the teachers in this county, whether public or private, be left to track down vaccinations on their own instead of moving forward with the plan developed by the county health officer and fire department? Instead, getting vaccinated has turned into the Hunger Games.