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Carroll schools vaccinate staff against COVID at clinic: ‘It’s so rewarding knowing you’re helping with this’

Six tables were set up at Winters Mill High School on Wednesday surrounded by nurses who were prepping doses and pricking Carroll County Public Schools staff members with needles filled with the COVID-19 vaccine.

The school system was given more than 700 does of the Moderna vaccine this week from the Carroll County Health Department to vaccinate CCPS employees. Carroll County has held vaccinations clinics since late December and first prioritized front line workers. Educators and school staff were became eligible in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine priority group listing and CCPS has been holding its own vaccine clinics since January.

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Although the county health department and the public school system continue to distribute and administer vaccines, the county is not given enough doses for all who want one.

Filipa Gomes, supervisor of student services, said 33 nurses will assist with and administer about 470 second-dose vaccinations Wednesday morning, CCPS’s first second-dose clinic. Another 250 doses were administered in the afternoon.

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“It’s been going really smoothly,” she said that morning. “We really haven’t had many people sitting down waiting.”

Karl Streaker, director of student services said on Friday that 460 second-dose vaccines were administered that morning and 276 first-doses were administered that afternoon.

Empty chairs were spaced out on the left side of the gym where employees would have waited.

Some were waiting on the opposite side of the gym but only for observation after they received their shots. Gomes said they must wait for 15 minutes or 30 minutes for those who have a history of severe allergic reactions.

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All of Wednesday’s volunteers were school nurses except for two Maryland response nurses, Gomes said. Students do not have in-person classes on Wednesdays so nurses were free to help.

Stacy Hann, a nurse at Manchester Valley High School, said working in the clinics is rewarding.

Nancy Jascur, a registered nurse with Carroll County Public Schools, prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic for CCPS educators and staff at Winters Mill High School Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
Nancy Jascur, a registered nurse with Carroll County Public Schools, prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic for CCPS educators and staff at Winters Mill High School Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (Dylan Slagle)

“It’s been so good for me emotionally,” she said. “It’s so rewarding knowing you’re helping with this.”

Hann said she has helped in various clinics as a prepper, a scriber and the person who administers the vaccine. She works four days a week so she has more time to volunteer compared to her fellow nurses, Hann said.

Buddy Buscemi, a school nurse at Winters Mill, said he has participated in all CCPS clinics and five run by the health department. He received his second dose last week and is helping administer the dose to others.

“The employees in the school system want to be vaccinated,” he said. He added that the reviews of the clinic have been positive.

Buscemi said people are sometimes frustrated with signing up for a dose but the school system is only given so many.

Ed Singer, county health officer, said at the last school board meeting the most they have been given in a week by the state was 1,500 doses and the least was 800. At that meeting, board members voted to allow students to return to the classroom at least four days a week by March 22.

Gomes said when the school system has vaccines available, an email is sent to a list of employees who indicated they want to receive it. And sign-ups are “pretty much” on a first-come, first-served basis, Gomes said. Second-dose vaccines, however, are automatically scheduled.

Emails for the first dose are sent at different time of days so all employees have an opportunity to sign up. Gomes said if they sent the email at 8 a.m., employees like bus drivers and custodians would miss it since they are transporting students around that time or resting after working during the previous evening.

Steven Shoup, who works in student services at central office, said he was very happy after receiving his second dose. He took his first dose about 2-1/2 weeks ago, and described the process of being vaccinated as “very simple.”

“The school system has made it very easy,” he said.

North Carroll Middle School Custodian Stephen Robinson gets his 2nd dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic for CCPS educators and staff at Winters Mill High School Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
North Carroll Middle School Custodian Stephen Robinson gets his 2nd dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic for CCPS educators and staff at Winters Mill High School Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (Dylan Slagle)

Michael VanScoyoc, who also works in central office, also said the process was smooth for him. He said after he took the first dose he was tired more than usual the next day but there wasn’t any other side effects.

“I’m hoping the second one is similar,” he said.

Jenny Simensky, a special education teacher at Parr’s Ridge Elementary, said she had a weird pain around her arm after she received her first dose, but nothing else. She said she was excited after receiving her second dose Wednesday.

“I won’t have to worry as much,” she said. “Maybe I don’t have to wear my two masks and face shield. Maybe I can just wear one mask.”

Simensky said she was “all-in” when teachers became eligible to be vaccinated and the sign-up process was not bad for her since she works in special education, but harder for her general education colleagues who were “fighting for appointments.”

The school system prioritized special education staff to be vaccinated because they work in close proximity to a lot of students. After that, general education staff members could sign up.

Simensky said the health department and school system are dealing with the supply of vaccine they have, but they need more.

The next clinic is scheduled for Feb. 24. Streaker said they are scheduled to receive 500 first-dose vaccines unless the weather causes a delay. If so, the clinic will be moved to March 3.

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