LIMA — School districts across the Lima region are reporting that anywhere from 50% to 70% of their K-12 employees intend to take the COVID-19 vaccine when offered, a process that is set to begin next week for Allen County schools as part of Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to get all K-12 schools to resume in-person instruction by March 1.
Ohio plans to set aside 91,000 vaccines for K-12 teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school employees next week, including those who work for Allen County school districts.
But it’s unclear exactly when and where each district will hold immunizations, as many districts are awaiting further information from local health departments, pharmacies and educational service centers responsible for coordinating the vaccine clinics.
And because Ohio only anticipates 91,000 shots for its first week of K-12 immunizations, many teachers like those who work for districts in Auglaize, Hardin, Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert counties will have to wait at least one more week.
Administrators are now working to quickly educate their employees on the benefits and safety of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines before immunizations begin.
Aaron Rex, Wapakoneta schools superintendent, estimated that 56% of his staff plan to receive a vaccine. But Rex said some employees have been advised to wait because of an underlying health condition or recent COVID-19 illness.
“There’s some general questions about, ‘If I have or have had COVID-19, how long do I have to wait? If I’m pregnant?’ Just different things like that,” said Jill Ackerman, Lima schools superintendent, who hosted a Zoom conference call for staff on Tuesday to learn more about the vaccines available.
While it appears that K-12 employees are less hesitant to take the vaccine than nursing home workers initially were, the scarcity of vaccines could draw the process out. Already, Ohioans eligible for early 1B vaccinations are waiting days or weeks to schedule an appointment with so few vaccines coming into the state each week.
DeWine on Tuesday said the state has been receiving roughly 146,000 first doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines each week. But now that nursing home immunizations are winding down, DeWine said the state will begin directing 77,000 unused vaccines originally set aside for nursing home staff and residents to be used for other 1A and 1B groups instead. And as the state finishes 1A immunizations, DeWine anticipates more vaccines will be available for the 2.2 million Ohioans eligible for 1B.