There is no longer a priority list among Carroll County Public School employees for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Superintendent Steve Lockard told the Times all employees are a priority and invitations are sent to all who want to be vaccinated to get on the list. Approximately 1,000 employees have received their first round of shots. However, the problem lies in the amount of vaccine Carroll County is receiving from the state. It’s not enough, he said.
“In collaboration with the health department, our team has done an amazing job coordinating this effort,” Lockard said in an email. “The biggest issue and frustration, and I know it is shared by [Health Officer Ed] Singer, is the lack of actual doses of vaccination available.”
He said a process was created that utilized school nurses to vaccinate 1,000 employees a day. It would have allowed them to complete the first round of shots for all employees who wanted them in less than a week. But there weren’t enough doses allocated.
“That is out of my control and largely a state and national issue,” he said.
Maryland has ranked low on the list of vaccine distributions compared with the rest of the country. The state has been vaccinating its residents at a slower rate than most states and an analyses by the Brookings Institution determined the reliance on counties is partially to blame.
Singer told the county commissioners on Thursday that last week 1,400 vaccines were administered to Carroll countians by the health department and another 1,400 were being administered this week, but only 800 were provided by the state for next week.
A few public school teachers, who are in group 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution phase, received vaccinations during the 1A phase due to first responders not signing up as quickly as expected.
Special education teachers were on the priority list of school staff to receive a vaccine as were bus drivers and attendants who transport special education students. Lockard said invitations for the vaccination clinics were sent to those prioritized groups a few weeks ago.
“We continue to refine our process as we have learned of the many challenges involved with coordinating such an involved process,” Lockard said. “It is also important to note that we have a very short time frame to get staff signed up when we learn of available vaccine.”
The superintendent said “moving forward, there is no longer a prioritized order” and invitations for vaccines were sent to all employees who said they wanted to be vaccinated. When the available slots are full, the clinic will close until the next batch of doses becomes available.
“While admittedly, there is no perfect process, we do verify that all persons who register and attend the CCPS vaccination clinics are CCPS employees or bus contractors serving Carroll County,” Lockard said. “Every vaccine distributed is a move in the right direction.”
During Thursday’s meeting Commissioner Dennis Frazier conveyed concern for vaccine distribution in schools and among the nearly 2,000 educators, school staff and support personnel in the county.
“The school system needs to do better than the free-for-all they are doing right now,” Frazier said.
Frazier questioned whether those at highest risk of the virus were being prioritized. Singer said the health department would leave it up to CCPS to decide if certain groups should be prioritized.
Teresa McCulloh, president of Carroll County Education Association, said she heard the administering of vaccines is “streamlined and running smoothly” but also noted how there is not enough vaccine. She said members were told there was no longer a priority list.
“At this point, everyone is receiving the registration email at the same time,” she said.
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Carroll County Times reporter Yasmine Askari contributed to this report.